Chad Gilbert – Pastor’s Roundtable on Preaching graphic

As I entered the meeting room, I saw Pastor Jerry Davis seated near the sound booth. Pastor Davis is a man of God I am privileged to call my friend, but also a mentor. As we warmly greeted one another, he said, “I am here because of you.”

Now before I come off as big-headed, I need to tell you about Pastor Jerry Davis. Pastor Davis has been preaching and pastoring longer than I have been alive (I am 33). He is a pastor that literally took me under his wing, inviting me to his table, including me in his conversations, encouraging and instructing me personally as a pastor.

I have called and sought his advice. He has encouraged, exhorted, equipped, and corrected me. When this great pastor says, “Beloved,” he means it, and I know that I am loved as if I were his own son.

So, when Pastor Davis said, “I am here because of you,” I heard, “Son, I love you and I am here for you,” much the way a father comes to a son’s baseball game. Most kids who really love the game didn’t just pick up a glove that morning – most of the time they had a dad who had been coaching them for years – who really never stops coaching and supporting them.

Three lessons have been planted in my heart by pastors like Jerry Davis, each touched on during the Pastor’s Roundtable discussion on preaching.

You can only be you.

I don’t know if I have ever seen a group of pastors laugh as hard as I did watching Pastors Jerry Davis, Cornelius Tilton, Dennis Watson, Frank Davis, and others cut up about the preachers they had mimicked earlier on in their pastorates.

As it is for many guys my age, I found myself sounding more and more like David Platt. We all know we pick up mannerisms and phrasing from the folks we listen to, but I realized I was bordering on doing an impersonation! As these great pastors and preachers of God’s Word continued to reminisce, it was obvious that each one of them had embraced their God-given uniqueness and were fully alive, by the Spirit, in their own skin.

The process of figuring out who you are can be tough, but nothing is more painful than awaking to the thought that you are an impersonator – really, an imposter – posing as the real deal. God used Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp and Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh to help me become more confident than ever before in God’s sufficient grace within this skin of mine.

God’s Word must continually shape you.

More often than not, I attempt to master the text rather than beg God to master me with the text of His Holy Word. It has often been said that the constant dripping of water wears away the stone – how much more so a Niagara Falls-like flow of God’s Word in your life.

For the first two years of my pastorate I was in God’s Word, but not going through God’s Word. Nothing altered the course of my life, my marriage, my family, my pastoral care, my preaching, and my prayer life like going through God’s Word – all of it – again and again and again. The Word of God must shape the preacher, and as it does, the Word of God will more and more be heard and seen in every sermon.

Stay and love the church.

Mike Miller noted how deeply he loves FBC Kenner. Not only that, he also noted how genuinely loved he feels as their pastor. Such love did not come without a choice to stay. I hear the statics for pastor tenure among Southern Baptists and it seems unreal.

I don’t know how many “offers” Mike has received since moving to New Orleans, but I know that doesn’t matter because pastors that want to leave New Orleans, do – offers or not. Mike has been faithfully pastoring FBC Kenner for over six years, and it has really made all the difference. In fact, the mechanic I frequent in Gentilly is a man who is a member of FBC Kenner. His name is Jerry, and I have witnessed the transforming power of God’s Spirit in this man’s life.

He sees me coming and we start talking about what “Pastor Mike” has been preaching. This man was a Catholic, now born-again, and is being sanctified by the power of God’s Spirit within the context of a healthy church, cared for by a man who loves him as his pastor. Just because we stay somewhere for many years does not mean we will love them well, but it is pretty hard to love well a people you hardly stay with long enough to even learn their names.


5 responses to “Chad Gilbert – Pastor’s Roundtable on Preaching”

  1. Paul Naylor says:

    Chad,
    Thank you for investing your time in all of us this past Monday. I appreciate your heart for Jesus.
    Paul Naylor, Pastor
    First Baptist LaPlace

  2. Marc Daniels says:

    Hey Billy,

    I wanted to follow up on what I said at the Pastor’s Roundtable so that I won’t be misunderstood in my comments.

    From the comments that followed mine, I got the impression that it sounded like my emphasis on judgement came across as a tendency for judgement. Nothing could be further from the truth and I hope that is not what you took away from my comments.

    To preach about God’s Judgment of sinners should never come across as the preacher sitting in judgment of sinners. That is a farce and a disgrace and has no place in the pulpit. Instead, what should be being preached is the holiness and extreme worth of God Himself. If we preach in a way that magnifies and exalts God, and then show how man has broken faith and trampled His glory by our sin, the grace of God in His forgiveness will be clearly seen. His judgment will be seen clearly as the natural consequence that flows out of His goodness (after all, how could a loving God not judge sin and evil).

    From your questions/comments, it sounded to me like you see a dichotomy between judgment and grace. Almost as if one aspect of God’s character could be separated from the others. Think of it this way, instead of deciding to preach on Grace or preach on Judgment, how about just preaching on God’s glory? Instead of preaching against particular sins, why not preach on God’s majesty? I think we make this too complicated. Every passage of Scripture we preach will lead us to contemplate the greatness of God if we look closely enough. If I’m seeing God’s greatness and making it my goal to preach His glory, then whether I’m preaching a passage focused on “judgment” or a passage focused on “grace”, His glory will be seen clearly and both aspects of His character will be known.

    Here’s an example. I just spent the last two months preaching through the Ten Commandments. I’ve been preaching for fourteen years and never touched them because I never wanted to preach legalism or condemnation. But, I found by preaching though them and focusing on the Greatness of God, that I was able to properly use the Commandments to display His Glory. The response has been incredible! Our people have truly been moved and have spent time considering, not rules that they must abide by to escape judgment, but how glorious God is to let us know His character and how amazing He is to graciously forgive us for sinning against it.

    I would recommend to you to study the sermons of Charles Spurgeon if you want to understand better how to preach Judgment and Grace together. In my opinion, no one has ever done it better (except the Apostle Paul and Christ Himself). Also, Paul Washer’s book “The Gospel’s Power and Message” is amazing and really helps to clarify this subject.

    Your comment about the engagement of the people when preaching “judgement” but not when preaching “grace/call to action” shows an immaturity in the listeners. They have become used to sitting in judgment of others, instead of becoming disgusted by their own sin. The response that is proper when hearing a sermon on judgment is brokenness and weeping, not self-congratulatory pride and condemnation of others. Likewise, the response that is proper when hearing a sermon on grace should also be brokenness and weeping – a great gratitude for the grace of God poured out on sinners!

    Every sermon should be preached to and effect the hearts of the listeners. The sermons inside of church on Sunday mornings are not preached to the world outside, to be cheered and Amen’d as if they had no application to the listener’s life. They are to be preached to the listener and the Majesty of God is to be seen so that all who hear would be able to respond like Isaiah and say both “woe is me” and “here am I, Lord, send me”.

    I can tell you that I have seen this church grow in grace and holiness over the fourteen years I’ve been here. When my wife and I first got here, the congregation was an inch deep and mile wide in their walk with Christ. There were petty fights and lots of condemning attitudes. There was flagrant sin that was never confronted and godless attitudes that were passed off without comment. It isn’t that way now. It’s not an easy thing to quantify, but I can tell you that a large percentage find it their joy to seek Christ in all things and make Him their treasure. They’re depth constantly amazes me now.

    We average 80 in worship on Sunday morning. That’s about 50-60 or so adults and around 20-30 children and teens. Yet we brought 26 to LSU with us last Saturday (19 adults & 7 teens) to work like dogs in a concession stand to raise money for our Guatemala missions program. We bring 20-30 with us when we take a mission trip to Mississippi or Tennessee. We have an active benevolence ministry and recently supplied 150 students school supplies for the year, even though our congregation is poor and our budget is busted. We had 37 workers (adult and teen) for our Children’s VBS this summer and 7 (adults) for our Youth VBS. Our people respond to the message of the Gospel, not with condemnation of others and lack of compassion and/or willingness to serve, but with commitment to the Christ who set them free from condemnation and a desire to see others likewise set free!

    To sum up a very long diatribe (sorry). If you preach on the Majesty and Glory of God in every sermon, the people will see Him and see the relation between His judgment and His Grace. they will respond in brokenness and repentance and be less likely to sit in judgement of others and more likely to show compassion. If you preach Christ, and Him crucified, they will see Christ and want more of Him in their life!

    Finally, be careful using the excitement of the crowd as an indicator of the effectiveness of the message. Sometimes, the messages that get the least applause are the ones that God uses for the greatest impact on His Kingdom work. Just make sure that you truly love those who are listening and you won’t stray too far away from what you need to preach.

    In Christ,
    marc

    • Billy Puckett says:

      Marc,

      Thanks for the post.
      Cultural engagement is one of my primary areas of interest. My passion is to see the church effectively engage the world according to Christ. We have some messages that can be confusing to the culture, such as the balance between unconditional acceptance and the call to change, or the love and wrath of God. In regard to how the Church is to engage the world and advance a kingdom agenda, I like the disposition and actions prescribed in 1 Timothy 2 – men are to be gentle, prayerful, and peaceable and women are to be modest and meek. The common means for men to advance an agenda is strength, violence and aggression; and for women, sex is the weapon they have to exert influence. The Church is called to a different way to advance the King’s agenda. We are called to serve, forgive, hold no record of wrongs, let our gentleness be know to all. However, often our moral stands and preaching of the judgment of God can feel like threats and aggression, informing people about the wrathful God rather than a genuine gentle and compassionate call to run toward a personal relationship with a loving God. These can be difficult to balance in our preaching. Like you, my desire is for the Church to figure out how to engage the culture with grace and truth.

      I appreciate your thoughts.

      bp

      • Marc Daniels says:

        Hey Billy,

        Thanks for the conversation, it’s nice to be able to discuss these things together.

        As far as reaching the culture…again, I would refer you to Charles Spurgeon who is known for more than a century as the “Prince of Preachers”. He was a mega church Pastor before there ever was such a thing. Spurgeon brought more to Christ through his preaching than any modern preacher could even fathom. Yet, he never shied away from preaching what most would consider a confrontational Gospel.

        In the same way, the first and second great awakenings in this country did not come about through preaching about the love and compassion of God divorced from His wrath and condemnation of sin. Preachers like Edwards and Whitefield preached a message of repentance to lost sinners. Whitefield is thought to have preached to more than 10 million listeners! Edwards is known as the Preacher who started the First Great Awakening with his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, not exactly a “gentle and compassionate call”.

        To those who think that our culture has progressed to the point that we need to preach a more genteel message, out of fear of offending the sensibilities of modern man, I would point out that the human heart is no more advanced and no more depraved than at any other point in human history. It’s not like the first century hearers were attracted to a confrontational message that modern hearers are repulsed by. Throughout history, the Gospel has always been ‘foolishness’ and disgusting to those who don’t know Christ. But, the Apostle Paul refused to preach anything but Christ, and Him crucified.

        And, don’t ever forget that the first words Jesus ever preached were “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”, not “God loves you!”.

        Where I will completely agree with you is in the attitude of the preacher. We are called to gentleness and respect in sharing a message that is anything but gentle. Here, I believe, is where the message of repentance/judgment/grace gets muddled. Many preachers attempt to preach a message of judgment because of their own personal axes they are wanting to grind. They preach against certain sins and against entire classes of sinners instead of preaching a universal message about sin and redemption. They personally find homosexuality repugnant, so they preach against it. They can’t stand the looseness of modern morals, so this is central to all their messages. They wind up preaching morality and sit in judgment of the world. Showing nothing but anger and hatred to those in need of the living water of Christ. This is repugnant!

        In order to faithfully preach the Gospel message to a dying world, I first need to truly appreciate my own situation in Christ. I am every bit as depraved a sinner as any who has ever walked this earth. Grace is amazing to me because I have contemplated the absolute depravity of my heart and the absolute justice that God should require of me, but doesn’t. The Apostle Paul wasn’t waxing poetic when he called himself the chief of sinners – he really meant it. My thoughts and sinful acts separate me from my loving and righteous God every bit as much as the actions of the most prolific sex addicted porn star, the homosexual couple, the self-righteous Pharisee, and the lying, thieving, heroin-addicted murderer. Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, the Apostle Paul, and me. We all stand condemned before the righteous, Holy God of the universe!

        If I don’t believe that, than I am full of prideful deceit and should never deign to preach the Gospel of Jesus. But, if I know my own situation and the hopelessness of finding a righteousness of my own, and the absolute need for the grace of Jesus to set me free from condemnation and Hell, then I am ready to proclaim the wrath of God and the repentance needed to escape that wrath. Then, and only then, can I show how God is compassionate and loving by not minimizing sin and exalting prideful sinners. My preaching judgment is because I am broken over the sin of man and like God am “not wanting any to perish…”. Here’s a quote from Spurgeon that I find helpful in this matter:
        “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

        Again, I highly recommend the book by Paul Washer “The Gospel’s Power & Message” on this topic. I have found it to be invaluable in understanding how wrath and love are coexistent in God and how they are both essential in Gospel preaching.

        Sorry for the rants, but I find this to be one of the most important and under appreciated aspects of preaching. And, I think that we are really screwing it up by trying to find a message that is palatable to the lost. Let’s stick to what Jesus preached and show by our actions that His message is truly loving.

        In Christ,
        marc

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