Gospel Economics

Here’s a little thought experiment I did at Grace last weekend. We were looking at the parable of the shrewd manager, thinking about how to use our money wisely in light of future realities.

I was encouraging folk to think about how to invest in eternity, specifically in their financial giving to gospel work. Lot’s of us think our little bit won’t really make any difference. But think about it this way.

Suppose someone from Grace earned an average wage across their working life. An average salary where we are (according to the last census) is around 27k.

If they gave a tenth to gospel work that’d work out as follows:

  • 200 quid a month
  • 2,5k a year
  • 25k over ten years
  • 100k over a working life
  • If 10 people did this that’d be 1 million
  • If 100 people did this that’d be 10 million
  • If 100 churches of 100 people did this that would equate to 1 bn to gospel work in a 40 years period

A little faithfulness can go a long way. We just need the vision to see it, and the determination to do it.

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Spurgeon Quotes on Preaching

Here’s a few great quotes from a great man on preaching that really connects:

On introductions . . .

“I prefer to make the introduction of my sermon very like that of the town-crier, who rings his bell and cries, ‘Oh, yes! Oh, yes! This is to give notice,’ merely to let people know that he has news for them, and wants them to listen. To do that, the introduction should have something striking in it. It is well to fire a startling shot as the signal gun to clear the decks for action.”

On variety in delivery . . .

“What a pity that a man who from his heart delivered doctrines of undoubted value, in language the most appropriate, should commit ministerial suicide by harping on one string, when the Lord had given him an instrument of many strings to play upon! Alas! alas! for that dreary voice, it hummed and hummed like a mill-wheel to the same unmusical turn, whether its owner spake of heaven or hell, eternal life or everlasting wrath. It might be, by accident, a little louder or softer, according to the length of the sentence, but its tone was still the same, a dreary waste of sound, a howling wilderness of speech in which there was no possible relief, no variety, no music, nothing but horrible sameness.”

On appealing to interests . . .

“I suggest again that in order to secure attention all through a discourse we must make the people feel that they have an interest in what we are saying to them. This is, in fact, a most essential point, because nobody sleeps while he expects to hear something to his advantage. I have heard of some very strange things, but I never did hear of a person going to sleep while a will was being read in which he expected a legacy, neither have I heard of a prisoner going to sleep while the judge was summing up, and his life was hanging in jeopardy. Self-interest quickens attention. Preach upon practical themes, pressing, present, personal matters, and you will secure an earnest hearing.”

On stories . . .

“I have often seen some poor fellow standing in the aisle at the Tabernacle. Why, he looks just like a sparrow that has got into a church, and cannot get out again! He cannot make out what sort of service it is; be begins to count how many people sit in the front row in the gallery, and all kinds of ideas pass through his mind. Now I want to attract his attention; how shall I do it? If I quote a text of Scripture, he may not know what it means, and may not be interested in it. Shall I put a bit of Latin into the sermon, or quote the original Hebrew or Greek of my text? That will not do for such a man. What shall I do? Ah! I know a story that will, I believe, just fit him.”

On feedback . . .

“Get a friend to tell you your faults, or better still, welcome an enemy who will watch you keenly and sting you savagely, What a blessing such an irritating critic will be to a wise man, what an intolerable nuisance to a fool! Correct yourself diligently and frequently, or you will fall into errors unawares, false tones will grow, and slovenly habits will form insensibly; therefore criticize yourself with unceasing care. Think nothing little by which you may be even a little more useful. But, gentlemen, never degenerate in this business into pulpit fops, who think gesture and voice to be everything.”

On preaching Christ . . .

“Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, PREACH CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs still to be told of its Savior, and of the way to reach him… We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel. Man’s fall, his need of a new birth, forgiveness through an atonement, and salvation as the result of faith, these are our battle-ax and weapons of war.”

On brevity . . .

“Brevity is a virtue within the reach of all of us; do not let us lose the opportunity of gaining the credit which it brings. If you ask me how you may shorten your sermons, I should say, study them better. Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit. We are generally longest when we have least to say.”

On character . . .

“We have all heard the story of the man who preached so well and lived so badly, that when he was in the pulpit everybody said he ought never to come out again, and when he was out of it they all declared he never ought to enter it again… We do not trust those persons who have two faces, nor will men believe in those whose verbal and practical testimonies are contradictory. As actions, according to the proverb, speak louder than words, so an ill life will effectually drown the voice of the most eloquent ministry.”

On prayer . . .

“Prayer will singularly assist you in the delivery of your sermon; in fact, nothing can so gloriously fit you to preach as descending fresh from the mount of communion with God to speak with men. None are so able to plead with men as those who have been wrestling with God on their behalf.”

Disciplines necessary to good hermeneutics

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Grant Osborne in his The Hermeneutical Spiral outlines four disciplines necessary to good exegesis. These are:

  • Exegetical theology – understanding of biblical languages, semantics, grammar, structure, backgrounds etc etc.
  • Biblical theology – understanding the wider narrative arc, and the progression of themes and ideas through the canon of Scripture. It won’t necessarily make it any easier to answer questions regarding the place of the law in the Christian life – but it will at least make you aware of trajectories and fulfilments.
  • Systematic theology – understanding the overall relationships and syntheses of ideas and doctrines across the entirety of Scripture. Systematics helps you exercise proper caution when you read, for example, ‘you see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.’ (Jam 2:24)
  • Historical theology – understanding of the ways in which the church has understood passages and ideas throughout history. If you’re the first person to ever see something that should at least encourage you to pause for thought.

Osborne’s little grid is a really helpful reminder of the various disciplines we need to keep working on – particularly those of us who are pastor-generalists. It encourages us to engage in the various areas regularly and often, and it warns us against dismissing one or other, or becoming fixated on one as the most important thing.

A gently growing understanding across these four areas will help the pastor-theologian grow in wise and faithful handling of Scripture in public and private.