Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Sermons

If you were soon to become the Vicar of some churches, what would some of the early topical sermons you'd want to preach be?


A Vision For Ministry

What is the Christian Gospel?

What is a real Christian?

How can I do to heaven?

What on earth is the Church for?

Communion confusion

Why does the Vicar keep going on about the Bible?

A Vision for The Good Life

Then maybe your sermon series on The 10 Commandments, The Apostles' Creed, The Lord's Prayer and the systematic exposition of Bible books - then retirement.

The Missionary Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda

has been launched by some catholic Anglican bishops including (from my part of the world) the Bishop of Chichester, the Bishop of Horham and Bishop Lindsey Urwin. It will be very interesting to see how it develops.

Is the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans / FCA UK which came out of the GAFCON movement an evangelical equivalent?

There seems to be a lack of English Evangelical Bishops seeking to make a similar kind of provision?

In fact, who are the English Evangelical Bishops who are opposed to the consecration of women to the Episcopate? And even if some are in favour of it, what provision will be made for their evangelical brothers and sisters and friends who up with this can not put?

Or maybe the good old C of E itself might yet do something adequate?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Carson on Scripture

The Don tells us:

Discussion about the nature of Scripture continues apace. Readers interested in a recent survey of developments might find helpful an essay by Robert W. Yarbrough (in the 34, no. 1 issue of Themelios, published online at thegospelcoalition.org). Of the numerous books on Scripture written within the last five years, the best is that of Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God (2009). I am currently working, with about thirty-five others, on a two-volume set to be published by Eerdmans in 2012. Tentatively titled The Scripture Project, the set aims to work through fundamental biblical, theological, historical, and philosophical issues related to the doctrine of Scripture. I would like to think of this current collection as constituting steps along the way in this broader enterprise toward a robust confessionalism on this topic. …

How long does it take you to prepare a sermon?

That all depends on lots of things, not least how much time and engery I have. Preparation can be lots of fun and it can sometimes expand to fill the time available. On the other hand, it can also be hard work and one can tend to hide from it.

One has to decide how much time and engery one can spare and what one's other duties are. There's no set time that one must spend on any one sermon. In a way, all of life is sermon preparation anyway! In some situations it would be possible to work too long and hard on a sermon, when one should be resting, or spending time with the wife and kids, or evangelising the many unconverted people of the parish who ought to be there to hear the sermon but wont be unless you persuade them to come.

It also depends on how well I know the passage or subject in question. There are some sermons I could probably preach to you now without a single note that I hope you would find at least moderately helpful. That's cos I've preached them once or twice before, so I don't feel I desperately need to do much extra preparation.

It also depends on to whom I'm speaking and in what context and for how long. For example, if I know the hearers are likely to be well taught keen Christians with a similar background to me who will come desperate to hear the Word of God, there is less need to worry about being very engaging and accessible. If I'm going to speak in a pub to people who don't even know that Jesus died on the cross, I'm going to think a bit more about a way in and a way of getting it accross.

It also depends what helps I have available. If there's a Vaughan Roberts sermon online on that passage then maybe I might as well just preach that: one hour, sermon ready. I'm kidding. Kind of!

So there are no hard and fast rules. We mustn't be too hung up about it. Adequate preparation is adequate. You will never preach the perfect sermon and its probably sinful to attempt to!

I would say that generally I would want two "sessions" (i.e. mornings, afternoons or evenings - or nights!) to work on a sermon: so something like 8 hours all together. If I couldn't say something true and useful and reasonably engaging after that, I'd think something had gone badly wrong.

What do you reckon? Is 8 hours about right? That amount of preparation would make the typical traditional free church pattern of ministry of 2 sermons on a Sunday and a mid-week meeting do-able alongside a rule like "never be out of your study in the morning, never be in it in the afternoon", allowing for some other stuff too.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How To Lead a Service

Tommorrow, d. v., I will be leading a "seminar" on how to lead a church service. What might one say?

I might say things like:


The aims of this session.

Sharing best practice.

A great privilege and responsibility

The significance of public worship - a knd of authoritative public act

Things to discuss:

What are church services for? How can they best achieve these aims?

What makes a good or bad service / good or bad service leading?

Some suggestions and tips:


Be yourself

Relax (somewhat)

Don't worry! It's not really too hard to do a tolerable job - what's the worst that could happen?!

Some of these things may be counsels of perfection. Do what you can, baring in mind your other commitments etc. It doesn't have to be a perfect permormace.

Think about what you are aiming to do and why

Get some helpful input beforehand if you want e.g. consult with preacher, musicians etc. (Is there a song we should sing twice etc.?)

Will you use notes or a full text? Or other books (have bookmarks ready)?

Dress appropriately - avoid distracting get up! (e.g. a t-shirt that says "I love PB". Many people will be wondering who or what PB is for much of the service)

There's more than one way to skin a cat. It's fine to try new things or do it a bit differently. Some things may be debatable / have pros and cons / be a matter of taste. You can't please all the people all of the time - and that's not really the aim!

Err on the side of keeping it simple

Prepare, plan / be flexible!

Be biblical

Consider the Bible reading / possible themes of the service (e.g. harvest) - how might you compliment that stuff? A concordance, cross reference / study Bible or Bible Gateway etc. might help you

Read through all the songs and liturgy in full carefully before the service

Is there a logic and flow to the service or is it just a prayer hymn sandwich / one thing after another? Does the order of the elements matter? Why are we doing this bit? Why are we doing it here?

Remember that guests / visitors / non-Christians may be present

Explain where the service sheet / hymns words etc. can be found

If you do it every week, don't make it too samey in an unhelpful way - though the predicatable and familiar can have their place!

Arrive in plenty of time to pray before the service

Start on time

Make sure you turn the microphone on (and off!) / have it in the right place etc.! Try not to move your head around too much away from it

When will you face the congregation, when will you face straight ahead, when will you sit or kneel or stand? Will you do it all from the leaders' stall, the middle, the platform, the lecturn, a music stand, pulpit, Table etc.?

Check that the reader, prayer, musicians, sound desk & PowerPoint person etc. have turned up and know what's going on

Be aware of the C of E's rules and the resources available in The Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship. The Church of England website may help. (You haven't made the Declaration of Assent but C of E ministers will have).

Know what liturgical day (e.g. Advent Sunday, 2nd Sunday after Trinity) / special Sunday it is (e.g. Bible Sunday, Sea Sunday)!

Be friendly, warm and welcoming - smile - but not excessively so!

Try to strike the right balance of informal / formal, humour and seriousness: it is neither a stand up routine nor a funeral

Be clear

People like to know that the thing is under control and you know what's going on etc.

Make sure people know what they're supposed to be doing e.g. exactly when do we stand, sit or kneel. Give people time to do as their told: "We sit or kneel to pray. [Pause]"

Don't say "we stand to sing..." and then keep talking. Either tell people to stand and stop till they do, or make, "please stand" your last thing. I try to programme people to stand to sing for all our songs as soon as the music starts to play. Otherwise, no one knows what to do, some people are standing there like lemons while you blather on and people are still getting up when the song starts so we miss the first note etc.

Speak up

Is there anything in the service that requires particular explanation? (e.g. hymn words like, "I will raise my Ebineezer"). You can't always explain everything and that's okay - it would be tiresome to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.

It's okay but not essential to thank the people who take part publicly

Don't show off or apologise excessively. Ultimately the main focus should be on Jesus and others not you.

Don't be in too much of a rush / afraid of silence / pauses

Don't say too much. Don't make the whole thing too long. 1 hour to an hour and a quater is probably just about right for a normal service.

Don't drop things unless its essential. (The mussos can complain if you drop songs they've practiced etc.)

Don't preach a sermon

Don't steal the preacher's thunder

Don't fidget / mumble / repeat yourself / laugh too much at your own jokes

Be prepared for the collection plate to be a bit heavy and awkward

Know your mannerisms / annoying habits (e.g. taking your hand in and out of your pocket, scratching your ear)

Ask others how it went

A walk through elements of a typical service:

Entrance of the minsiters



Call to Worship

Adoration / songs

Invitation to confession


Declaration / reassurance of forgiveness (absolution)

Praise / thanksgiving songs

Affirmation / declaration of faith (creed)


Special Prayer or Collect of the Day

The Lord's Prayer (modern or traditional form)

Intercessions: asking prayers for ourselves and others



Bible Reading


Song with offertory

Offertory prayer

Final prayer




Practical plans for giving it a go with mentoring, help, feedback etc.

Further reading / resources

Job News

God-willing, some time in the new year, I am going to start as the C of E minister (technically "priest in charge", for any Anglicans who like to get it right!) at Warbelton and Bodle Street Green, two lovely Sussex "villages" between Hailsham and Heathfield in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the High Weald of (East) Sussex. The Rectory is in Rushlake Green. We are hoping that the boy will go to nursery and to the C of E primary school in Dallington when the time comes.

Any tips on being an incumbent / country pasrson very gratefully recieved!

Who wants to be a millionaire?

As I've said before (perhaps), sermons are not the place for footnotes or acknowledgements, but I feel I ought to confess to largely plagarising Vaughan Roberts' sermon (preached at St Ebbe's, Oxford) on Ecclesiasties 5:10-6 today at Holy Trinity, Eastbourne.

My working title was: Money & Meaning: Are the better off, better off?

The headings went something like this:

Wisdom about Wealth

(1) The frustrations of wealth: it doesn’t satisfy

(2) The fragility of wealth: it doesn’t last

(3) The fount of wealth: it’s God’s gift

(4) The futility of wealth: it isn’t ultimate

Sorry for more alliteration!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bodies in Romans 12

Revd Tony Baker suggestes at our church prayer meeting that in Romans 12 we can lean about how to relate to:

Our bodies (vv1-2)
Christ's body, the church (vv3-13)
and Anybody (vv14-21)


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Lord's Other Prayer

I am thinking of giving a brief talk on Matthew 9:37-38 at the Harvest Supper on Friday: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dates for the diary

Bible By The Beach, Eastbourne, 29th April - 2nd May 2011. Archbishop Greg Venables, John Lennox, R. Kent Hughes, Rico Tice and more! Resurrection people. Children's & youth programme, creche etc. Group discount for 12 places booked before 30th Nov.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Parable of the Sower Alliterations

God willing, I am going to preach on the so-called Parable of the Sower from Mark 4 for our harvest family service.

I might go alliteration-tastic with a look at:

The Sower = Jesus

The Seed = The Word of God

The Soils = Different groups of hearers, how they recieve and respond to the Word of God from Jesus

Satan, stoney, sidewalk (path), suckers (weeds), shallow (though that doesn't quite work), sound soil are all additional possible "s"s.

And then there are Vaughan Roberts headings which I reall from OiCCU days. Obviously alliteration can sometimes be memorable:

(1) The Problem of the Word

(2) The Purpose of the Word

(3) The Produce (or Power) of the Word

Or even:

(1) The Apparent Problem of the Word

(2) The Actual Purpose of the Word

(3) The Abundant Produce (or Power) of the Word

I might ask Mrs Lloyd to make up some pots of each type of soil and get some seed. The boy would enjoy "helping". And some pictures for the PowerPoint and Bob is a relative.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Extended Communion

It is worth noting that in a manner of speaking, every Communion is an extended communion. No one communes at exactly the same time and place as the President.It is all a matter of degree: how far away and how much delay are tolerable?

It is interesting to ask what difference being in the same building makes. What if there were an overflow of people to the church yard or church hall? Or down the road? Or if there were a video-link set up to those places?

Although I can see that people might dislike the idea, I wonder what possibilities modern technology might offer for extended communion e.g. for the housebound? Someone watching the service on a lap top would then recieve the elements in the same way as everyone else, only with a slightly longer delay? They would participate more fully in the corporate worship than at present. (They could down load service sheets and hymn words etc.) The same could be done for a sick family? Or for a congregation in another church?

(Admittedly, more presbyters would be a better solution!)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jesus' promise, purpose, power, plan, project

DV, I'm going to speak at tonight's prayer meeting and Communion on Matthew 16:18 - Jesus said: "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it"






and the gates of hell

will not overcome it

Each word / phrase deserves emphasis comment.

What Glen's been on about!

In 1000 words.

The Sussex Parson

As you can see, I've attempted a bit of re-branding here.

Do you like the new (additional) title?

I'm not sure about the image. I'm afraid its not our house! Nor it is Sussex! It was taken at St Fagans, The National History Museum of Welsh life.

The "original" Sussex Parson was Edward Boys Ellman (1815-1906), Rector of Berwick, but as they want £20 for a used copy of his Reflections, I'm afraid I've never read them. They were reccomended at Initial Ministerial Education in Chichester Diocese once, I think!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

How To Be A Vicar - or not

I fear this may be challenging stuff so thank goodness for this.

Lessons from Judges 1:1-2:5

God is in control and uses even the messy and the inexplicable.

God's power.

Victories come from God not ultimately from superior skills or numbers.

God's people can expect triumph when they do his will in his way.

God's work does not depend on any human being, not on our leaders or heros.

Total obedience to God's Word even when it feels hard or strange.

Don't think you know better than God. No pragmatism at the expense of principle.

No compromise with sin or with Godlessness.

The seriousness of sin and the reality of the coming judgement. The justice of God.

The need to throw in one's lot with God and his people.

God's blessing come when we work together in unity. Mutual help.

God is patient and merciful. He warns and stands ready to forgive.

Sin has painful sometimes disasterous sometimes unintended consequences.

Emotional repentance is good and fine as is expression of faith and devotion, but they must be real and lasting and applied in action.

We need new hearts, the power of the Spirit, forgiveness, rescue, a Saviour-King, Christ.

(With thanks to my homegroup, Dale Ralph Davis, Judges - Christian Focus - & The Good Book co., The Good The Bad and The Ugly).

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Ministers and Priests

One potential disadvantage in calling your minister or priest a minister or priest is that all God's people are ministers and priests. Its good to remember that. The minister or priest mustn't forget that the people are ministers and priests, and they should remember it too. They mustn't expect him to do all the ministering and priesting.

Perhaps Pastor helps to avoid this problem, thought of course we should pastor one another too. Maybe Elder or Presbyter would be the best title in this respect?

A bad argument

(1) Some Roman Catholics are bad or wicked or dangerous or wrong in some ways or something like that

(2) Some Roman Catolics use incense

(3) Therefore we must not use incense

Now, leave aside what you think about (1) for a moment. Just note that if were to grant this it would also prove:

(2a) Some Roman Catholics preach sermons using Bible texts

(3a) Therefore we must not preach (sermons using Bible texts).

As I said, a bad argument.

"They're just not ready for it!"

What would your attitude be if someone said someone else wasn't ready for studying a certain portion of God's Word?

I was pretty unconvinced. It's all God's Word and useful and we all need it all, and so on.

But on reflection, I think I'm a bit more sympathetic.

Imagine the Bible as rich, varried food. All of it is good and life-giving, and we need all of it, and a balanced diet. But some of it might be best for breakfast, lucnh, or dinner, or for a snack. Some may be a fine feast. Some is daily bread. We will naturally like some bits more than others. Some bits will be more or less nutritious, or appertising, or digestable. Some might neeed cutting up or mashing, or lots of chewing, or a good long stewing. Some bits will go together with other bits well, or be a nice change. Some might not taste good or upset us. Some bits might be an acquired taste. Some of us will suffer from defficiencies which mean that certain portions would be best for us. We must eat our greens too and not just have suasages for every meal or over-eat on pudding. And so on.

We don't all have to be able to eat everything in one go.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

In the name of God and to his glory

I would be a happy man if I preached like this.


When ever possible, when ministering I will take someone with me who might be more involved in that ministry in the future and chat with them about it before and afterwards. Next time, I might go with them and have them do it. Then they can go on their own. Then they can take someone else.

See one, do one, teach one is a good idea for multiplying ministry.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Blessed breasts

God willing, I am going to preach at our Mothers' Union Prayer Fellowship Communion on Thursday on Luke 11:27-28.

Vicar Wanted!

We'd like our old one back at Holy Trinity, Eastbourne, but failing that, you can find our Parish Profile here.

Have Bible Will Travel!

If you are after a preacher or speaker, you could do a lot worse than my old boss, The Revd John Cheeseman, who has just embarked on an itinerant ministry after 30 years of local church leadership. John is a Bible-believing, faithful, clear, courageous, passionate preacher keen on lively real-life application - and I'm no longer paid to say that. He'll be sound but not dull! I hear his rates are very reasonable! Try to get his wife, Joy, to come too!

John was called to the ministry while reading Classics at Oxford and trained for under Alec Motyer and Jim Packer at Trinity College Bristol. He is the author of The Grace of God in the Gospel / Saving Grace and The Priority of Preaching (Banner of Truth). His sermons on the life of Elijah are forthcoming.

A taster of John's sermons is available, I believe, from The Martyn Lloyd Jones recording trust. Many of his sermons from the last 2 years at Holy Trinity, Eastbourne, can be found on our church sermon page.

Be There or Be...

... potentially misinformed, unenlightened, not encouraged, stretched, humbled etc. etc.

What would the 17th Century Reformed say to the 21st Century church? What would thrill or suprise or horrify them?

I hope to find out at The Faith of Our Fathers' Conference in Southgate, North London, Sat 2nd Oct.

See you there or comment to book a place in my car from Eastbourne.

Visible "Word"

If we are going to say that the sacraments are Visible "Words" we will want to think long and hard about what words are.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Marriage alliteration purposes

Marriage is for:

Charity (love), chastity and children.
Partnership, procreation, purity.

And a way of putting it that may have been new to me:

Society (including children), sharing, sexual pleasure, symbol (of Christ as bridegroom of the church)

Thanks to Revd Paul Clark at David & Sarah Wilks' wedding at St Helens, Bishopsgate yesterday for that.

Incarnate Word

It seems to me perfectly acceptable and potentially very useful to compare the inacrnation of the Lord Jesus Christ in two natures (human and divine) with the inscriptuartion of the Word of God, which is both a human and a divine book.

Now, no doubt this is an analogy. We must avoid an illegitimate totality transfer. We need not think there is a hypostatic union between God and Man in the Bible to make use of it. All analogies break down - they are not totalities! They make points about relevant similarity. They invite us to compare and contrast and run thought experiments. They say something in a maybe new or interesting way. They need not say A is B or even the relationship between A and C is identical to the relationship between D and E in all respects. They might just say: hey, have you thought about this: is this a pattern? The incarnation seems to me to be one of the deep structures or paradigms of relatity. Of course it is unique and special in all sorts of ways, but it is also fundamental not accidental or incidental to everything else.

Further, it is no objection to the analogy as such to say that some people abuse it. For example, some people may want to assign stuff they don't get or like to the humanity of the Bible so as to be able to dismiss it. But here the true analogy can help us: Jesus and the Bible both have a perfect sinless humanity. There is no problem with the analogy here - the fault would be with the theology of the incarnation of those who argue thus.