28 May 2013

First book down; what next?

by Dan Phillips

Last Sunday I preached the thirty-first and final sermon on Paul's letter to Titus. That's the first book I've preached through in Copperfield Bible Church's Sunday services.

When I started the series, I was surprised not to be able to find many in-depth preaching series online. Oddly, the longest was (as I recall) that by A. W. Tozer (mine is now longer). What I heard was idiosyncratic and helpful. One line in particularly struck me, and I used it: "When Paul couldn't go, he sent Titus; when he couldn't stay, he left Titus."

Also, I found that I didn't like any of the book's outlines that I found. Most seemed very perfunctory, and not very thoughtful. They missed the point of the book, and the flow of Paul's thought. It forced me to sweat out an outline which I thought did better justice to what Paul was saying, and that in turn helped my preaching immensely.

The series easily could have been twice as long, if I'd taken more of what is called a "categorical" approach. This method expounds verses in sequence, but also takes them as opportunities to expand on the doctrine mentioned or assumed in the verse. I think there's value to such an approach, and my sermons are sometimes hybrids in that direction. For instance, when Paul called himself a "slave" and an "apostle," I expanded on what each term meant. When Paul used words like "faith" and "elect," I expanded on them as well; and so forth.

But I could have done that to a much greater degree, and headed towards that land inhabited by men such as D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who would preach an entire sermon (or two!) on a single word in a verse.

My design however was both to expound the words in the verses, and expound the verses in the book. I meant never to lose sight of the immediate nor larger (book) context.

That is a down-side of verse by verse exposition. Hearers can end up having heard episodic preaching on individual trees, with no feel of the forest. I'm old enough to remember when TV was virtually always that way. There was no larger "arc." Each week, Dick van Dyke and his TV family had some other whacky adventure. They were amusing, and they went nowhere.

For my part, I like the reputed approach of the old country preacher: "First, I tell them what I'm gonna tell them; then, I tell them; then, I tell them what I told them."

So the first sermon in the series was an introduction to and overview of the entire book. The last sermon was a single sermon, preached with only skeletal notes, on the entire book, incorporating highlights and keeping the flow and Paul's burden in writing.

I absolutely loved it. Titus is an amazingly contemporary book. It is a potent tour-de-force on some absolutely horrendous notions of faith and grace and Gospel and Christian living. With God's own wisdom, it speaks to Post-Modernism and contextualization; to various church-growth strategies and philosophies; to Gutless Gracers and muzzy mystics; to real-live age-ism and racism and the good and false approaches to each; and to a whole lot more.

I'm going to miss it!

But the next series should be fun. It will be on the first chapter of the book of...

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25 comments:

Frank Turk said...

If you are still of a mind to preach local church, 1 Cor is the follow-up to Titus. You have elders who set things in order? Yeah, but what about the problems of actually being real people in a local church?

1 Cor speaks to the real life of the church after the lofty goals of Titus.

Robert Flight said...

Or you know, you could go OT. Do one of the minor prophets.

DJP said...

Mmm, OT.

jmb said...

Philemon? 2 John? 3 John? Jude?

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

If you're preaching through Proverbs, I know of a guy who wrote a book on that...

Kerry James Allen said...

Try Nehemiah. "Building and battling." And Raymond Brown and Derek Kidner have very practical commentaries on the book.

Terry Rayburn said...

Preach an OT historical book like Samuel or Kings, with a specific goal to show Christ in every sermon. Your people will be surprised, delighted, and enriched when they see Him there.

Whozep68 said...

Ezra. Everyone forgets Ezra.

DJP said...

Not me, W. Dear wife cross-stitched me Ezra 7:10, big verse to me.

Pastor Nathan Dick said...

When is your commentary coming out?

DJP said...

Maybe after the Proverbs book passes 100K sold.

Pastor Nathan Dick said...

I bought mine and have recommended it to others...so I am trying to help.

DJP said...

I very much appreciate that, Pastor.

Doing a Proverbs commentary is a dream of mine. It'd be a massive undertaking. But it is a possibility, and never far from my thoughts.

I appreciate your interest.

Russ Jarvis said...

Nice job.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

PROVERBS.

No?

Nehemiah.

Morris Brooks said...

First eleven chapters on Genesis might be timely.

AminKor said...

Habakkuk. Hands down.

Listened to the Titus series (podcast) half a world away. Enjoyed it quite a bit. Was actually listening to the last one today. Like the wrap-up so far.

DJP said...

Happy to know my little digital missionaries have gone as far as New Zealand. Wish I had!

Robert said...

Amos. I hear people quote from Amos all the time, but have never heard a sermon series from it.

trogdor said...

Bel and the Dragon. Never heard a good sermon series from that.

trogdor said...

No, wait - you've written down the numerous personal words from God you've received over the years, and you'll be preaching through them. Or maybe chapter 1 of "Woman, Thou Art Loosed!"

Morris Brooks said...

Dan Phillips preaching a series on Woman Thou art Loosed, now there is a mental picture.

Chris H said...

@Morris: does the picture look like someone's head exploding? I don't even know whose head would go first, but it'd need a cleaning-up...

DJP: I taught teen sunday school classes on Zechariah-Malachi. They thought that was awesome, and so did I.

Morris Brooks said...

Acutally, it is Dan with a ladies hat and a boa...just to preach in character.

B&KLindeman said...

Jeremiah - I know it is huge but when I read it I cannot help but see the condition today's church and the culture all throughout.