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Preaching Grid: How Do We Preach the Whole Counsel of God to Everyone

Preaching Grid, NS

A few weeks ago the Sojourn Network hosted a micro-conference in Chicago at Missio Dei Wrigleyville on planting, growing, and multiplying healthy churches. We had a blast with the many pastors and church leaders who attended from the surrounding areas. Among other topics, I spoke a little about how to practically obey our God by preaching the whole counsel of Scripture. (Acts 20:27, Matt. 28:20) We must preach from the Scriptures with a coherent theological vision in order to form our people as the church and fuel them into the world.

But we aren’t preaching in a vacuum. We are preaching to particular people in a particular place inside both space and time. Therefore, healthy contextualization is necessary — not to make the Scriptures meaningful (they are plenty sufficient, true, and powerful on their own), but to show the audience’s relevancy to the Scriptures.

Therefore, at Sojourn Community Church and adopted by many Sojourn Network churches is this preaching grid (you can download it as a PDF here: Preaching Grid) based on our theological vision (we call it North Star. You can view the North Star Catechism here). The grid and the included questions help us filter some first steps in contextualization like age range of attendees, spiritual situations of the people, or atmosphere of the particular local church.

Often and mostly informally, we give feedback to one another as campus pastors here at Sojourn. We have live preaching at each of our four campuses with four main communicators. As we collaborate, listen each other’s sermons, and meet together each week, we give feedback along the lines of this gird in order to keep our preaching balanced and deep, as we earnestly preach the whole counsel of God.

  • What other questions are you regularly asking yourself each week during sermon prep?
  • Do you have a theological vision you try to check against your preaching?
  • How does accountability for preaching work in your church?
  • Do you have elders or church members of a variety of age and life situations speaking into your work?

Top 12 Books About The Holy Spirit

pentecost-blogPentecost Sunday is this Sunday, June 8. Pentecost reminds us that it’s not Father, Son, and holy principles, it’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a call to remember and re-envision life with the Spirit in the local Church. God doesn’t give us a business model to implement; He gives us Himself. Pentecost celebrates this gift and reminds us of the necessity of the Holy Spirit in preaching the gospel and advancing God’s mission.

This past year, Sojourn spent 40 weeks in John. Of all the New Testament writers, John provides some of the best teachings on the Holy Spirit, especially in the Gospels. In John we see the seven ministries of the Spirit: baptizing, regenerating, indwelling, reminding, convicting, teaching, empowering.

To further inform your understanding of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost Week, here are some of my favorite works:

He Who Gives Life & Engaging with the Holy Spirit by Graham A. Cole

While I don’t agree with everything that Graham Cole writes, I believe that “He Who Gives Life” provides some of the most sober reflections on the Holy Spirit. “He Who Gives Life” is a little bit meatier, while “Engaging with the Holy Spirit” answers six commonly asked questions about the Holy Spirit: (1) what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?, (2) how may we resist the Holy Spirit?, (3) ought we to pray to the Holy Spirit?, (4) how do we quench the Holy Spirit?, (5) how do we grieve the Holy Spirit?, (6) how does the Holy Spirit fill us?

Convergence & The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Sam Storm

Over the years, Sam Storms has provided some of the finest reflections on the Holy Spirit in the local church. In “Convergence” he provides us with his story and life with the Spirit, and in “The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts” he gives a field guide of what it looks like to live in the power of the Spirit in the context of the church. Sam Storms is a friend who has preached at Sojourn and led training on the Holy Spirit. I highly recommend all of his work.

Keeping In Step with the Spirit by J.I. Packer

This is by far one of my most ear-marked and highlighted works on the Holy Spirit. This is a devotional gem! It is also a great work in helping us map out the life of the Spirit on the terrain of the human heart as well as the local church.

God’s Empowering Presence & Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon D. Fee

Gordon Fee is a beast. His opus “God’s Empowering Presence” is nearly 1,000 pages. While I may not agree with all of his interpretations, he models Spirit-filled scholarship better than anything else that I’ve seen. If 1,000 pages seems daunting, start with “Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God.”

Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human by Steven R. Guthrie

Steven Guthrie deals with intersection of the Holy Spirit, creativity, and spirituality. This work provides clarity regarding the particularity of the Spirit’s work in the arts, but also provides a vision of the Spirit’s beauty in the restoration of all things.

The Holy Spirit in Mission by Gary Tyra

“The Holy Spirit in Mission” is a must-read for understanding the life of the Sprit in living the mission. Many in the reformed camp understand that the Spirit brings enlightenment and sanctification but the conversation comes to a halt in regards to the Spirit’s empowering work for mission in the local church. It holds together the spirit enlightening and empowering.

Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere

I haven’t read this one in awhile, but “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit” was a bomb-shell in the evangelical world when it first came out. It’s a story about what caused a former Dallas Theological Seminary professor to believe that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are still active today.

The Counselor: Straight Talk About the Holy Spirit from a 20th Century Prophet by A.W. Tozer

As the title indicates, this is straight talk about the Holy Spirit from a man who was undoubtedly a great 20th century prophet. Before there were tweets, Tozer penned one of the most tweetable books on the Holy Spirit, packed full of wonderfully crafted one-liners all about Him and His presence.

The Spirit-Filled Church by Terry Virgo

Even if you don’t agree with him, “The Spirit-Filled Church” is essential reading – inviting us to experience biblically grounded, Church-based, mission-empowered articulations of the role of the Spirit in the Church.

Other works include: Miracle Work by Jordan Seng, Joy Unspeakable by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Light of Truth & Fire of Love by Gary D. Badcock, God’s Indwelling Presence by James M. Hamilton Jr., The Annointed Community by Gary M. Burge, Thinking in Tongues by James K.A. Smith, The Holy Spirit: In Biblical Teaching through the Centuries, and Today by Anthony C. Thiselton


Final Words: The Seven Statements Of Christ On The Cross

seven-statements“Listen to this, oh ye purpose-driven, upwardly mobile, goal-setting high achievers.  He has done what we could not do.  Because we could not get up to God, God climbed down to us, got down on our level, and here, in the bloody, unjust crucifixion, we have at last descended to our level.  God has finished what God began.  It is finished.

What now is to be done by us? Nothing.

What might we learn from the lessons of this day?  Nothing.

What are we supposed to do for God before nightfall?  Nothing.  Did you miss his words?  ‘It is finished.’”

Thank God Its Friday by William H. Willimon

Christianity is synonymous with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; we should be preaching it week in and week out.  But, the Passion Week allows us to focus on His death and resurrection even more than usual.  There are so many rich traditions to practice during the Passion week, but one of my favorites is meditating on the last sayings of Jesus Christ.  There are many different books that could help guide your meditation, but here are three of my favorites:

The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by A.W. PinkReformed pastor/theologian, A.W. Pink, is a guy you can always count on to get the job done.  In this work, Pink walks categorically through Jesus’ last words; he identifies them as words of: forgiveness, salvation, affection, anguish, suffering, victory, and contentment.  This work will undoubtedly help you experience the Cross in a new way during the Passion week.


Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross by William Willimon:  Willimon is undoubtedly a master wordsmith.  Pastoral and always provocative, he provides a great work on the seven last words from the cross.  Eugene Peterson nails it when he says this book is, “[an] urgent, demanding, glorious gospel work, [with] an altar call implicit in every paragraph.”

thank-god-its-friday-encountering-seven-last-words-william-h-willimon-paperback-cover-art”Passion: How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day by Mike McKinley: In this book, McKinley writes with an earthy, pastoral voice as he unpacks the drama of Jesus’ crucifixion.  ‘Passion’ is thoroughly rooted in the beauty of the gospel, and draws us back again and again to reflect on the timeworn truths that coincide with the reality of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

blogger-image--1086986184My hope and prayer for us is that we would experience the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ afresh this Easter.  Meditating on the words that Jesus cried out on the Cross is a great way to stir our hearts with affections for the sacrifice that our Lord and Savior endured for us.  It’s through his death and resurrection that we can now have an intimate relationship with our Father; let us rejoice and celebrate this during the Passion Week!

I Am Not Afraid I Will Lose Strategy – I Am Afraid I Will Lose My Soul

Not afraid

The story of the church in Ephesus can be told in five seasons. Season One, Ephesus is planted and begins to grow from Paul’s missionary work in A.D. 52. Season Two, Church Multiplication begins A.D. 54-57 during Paul’s third missionary journey as

  • the mission becomes wholistic
  • the miraculous abounds
  • and people burned their former occult items. (Acts 19:8-20)

We see the multiplication of disciples and the church itself in Acts 19:20. The spreading of the gospel didn’t stay in Ephesus either, but

“This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10)

Season Three is sustained growth between A.D. 58-66. About a decade after the church had been started, Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians commending their faith and love. A careful reading of this epistle shows that they had done well. They appeared well organized and busy. During these early years they had been growing, expanding and doing the will of God. He commends their sincerity (Ephesians 6:23-24). Season Four between A.D. 67-87 is the maturing of the Ephesian church as Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-4), Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:25), and Apollos had all spent time watering the Ephesian church. Teaching is to Christians what watering is to plants – necessary and strengthening (1 Corinthians 3:6). It should have been one of the most thoroughly instructed of all the first-century congregations. The picture now is a well-watered and self-sufficient church. But then Season Five: it’s been 30 years since Paul’s last letter of commendation. And we find a startling letter from Jesus himself to the church in Ephesus. These people who started off so well, with authentic intentions to be faithful to the mission of God, find themselves losing their souls.

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. – Revelation 2:1-4

This fills me with fear and trembling. As a pastor, planter, and leader, I am not afraid I will lose strategy. I am afraid I will lose my soul. I am afraid of Ephesus. I pray season five never comes to Sojourn. Ephesus was hard-working, discerning, and enduring in the mission… but without their first love. Let’s pursue the wonderful craze of gospel-centered ministry, but let’s be careful to let our gospel-centeredness not be in name or even words alone. We were made for God and redeemed by God, to have blissful and loving communion with God. Church multiplication is crucial to the mission of God and I am grateful that church planting continues to be in the vogue. But may we labor together to plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches, while being cautious to never lose our first love. May all the planters and pastors of this generation aspire to be able to look back at their life in 50 years and joyfully exclaim to Christ: “You loved me first. You are my first love, sweeter now and when we first began.” To see more about our efforts on being a renewal driven church planting network check out Sojourn Network here or stop by our booth at T4G next week in Louisville. (The story of the seasons of Ephesus has been adapted from Churches that Multiply: A Bible Study on Church Planting. Elmer L. Towns & Douglas Porter. Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City: 2003).

Multiply Or Die: Ed Stetzer On Healthy Church Multiplication

All SNFor our April 6, 2014 Sunday Evening services we will have Dr. Ed Stetzer in town to preach on Church Multiplication. Stetzer believes that denominations and networks that fail to multiply churches “…have lost a big part of their purpose.” Multiplication is not optional, rather it is central to the mission of God’s church.

Dr. Stetzer often sees denominations and networks falling into similar pitfalls when it comes to multiplication. Here’s a list of his top six steps towards multiplication to counter the most common pitfalls:

1. Recognize that Multiplication is Part of Health.

The reality is that healthy living things multiply for the survival of their species. The lack of multiplication is an indicator of an unhealthy organism. If your denomination or network is healthy, it will have a strong emphasis on multiplication at every level.

2. Have Unity Around the Essentials.

Your denomination or network must have a well-defined plan for multiplication that includes (with explicit clarity) the theological, missiological, and ecclesiological expectations for churches within your ranks.

3. Define Cooperation Clearly.

Your denomination or network must clearly define cooperation. This step is closely related to the second. Cooperation occurs around a common set of beliefs– a common theological confession that leads to missiological cooperation.

4. Follow and Build the Right Leaders.

Church partnerships must follow good leaders and build leaders for the future. Don’t let your leadership choices be accidental; cultivate the kind of leaders that will continue to develop your denominational identity and lead a multiplication movement.

5. Celebrate Multiplication.

We celebrate the things that are important to us– and people get that. So, healthy denominations celebrate multiplication. I have said it before, but it bears saying again: What you celebrate, you become.

6. Grieve the Fact that the World is Filled with Lost People.

Finally, grieve lostness. It is that simple. Hurt for those who have not been transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son God loves (Col 1:13)

Dr. Stetzer has been a formative mentor in my life and a dear friend to Sojourn Community Church. Please join us on this Sunday evening, April 6 at 5pm and 7pm at our  Midtown campus to hear more form Dr. Stetzer himself on the importance of Church Multiplication. Sojourn’s primacy agency of multiplying through church planting is through the Sojourn Network. If you are going to next week’s T4G conference, be sure to stop be their booth.

(The above is an adaptation of “Multiplying in Partnership: thoughts on the Work of Denominations and Networks” from “The Exchange Blog” run by Ed Stetzer on Christianity Today’s website).

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