Thursday, October 19, 2006

IBC Session 6: Mark Dever on Worship in the Puritans

This is a guest blog post by my favorite pastor in "the Bin," Ian Vaillancourt. Ian was a member of Grace Fellowship Church before being called along with his wife Natalie to pastor the Binbrook Baptist Church.
In fact, I will be preaching at "the Bin" this Sunday morning as they celebrate their 4000th anniversary - okay, their 167th. But that feels like 4000 in comparison to our 6!
I was not able to attend the second day of the IBC, so I asked Ian to type up his notes and share them with us. This is not live-blogging. (It's not dead-blogging either!)
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*I hope these rough notes of Dr. Dever’s message will be helpful. I write notes as an aid to listening and internalizing, and when I wrote these, I did not know that Paul would later ask me to type them up for his blog! That, along with the occasional brain freeze (it was a long 15 hour day at the conference on Friday), explains the brevity of the notes. However, I do believe that the meat here is very good, and worth reading. I hope you enjoy! Ian.

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- Since the center of Puritan worship is preaching, that is what Dr. Dever will be lecturing on this morning.

- He explained that the term ‘Puritan’ is notoriously difficult to define. For the purposes of today’s lecture ‘Puritan’ will refer to those Reformed English Christians who were concerned to Reform and Purify the Church in the 200 or so years after the Reformation.

- The Puritans were great preachers.

- Many people have heard of the Westminster Assembly, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, but not as many have heard of the Westminster Directory for Public Worship. This small document presents the Puritan ideal!

- Dr. Dever explained that this is a lecture, and not a sermon. On Sunday Mornings at Capitol Hill Baptist Church his messages look a lot more like the one he preached last night (on Worship in the New Testament, from Romans 12). In that message he unpacked a particular passage of Scripture and applied it to life.

- This morning’s message will be a lecture. It will not be an expository message, but a historical one. It will be primarily aimed at preachers, although he invites and encourages all non-preachers to listen in, as it is very important for everyone to hear and understand what makes good preaching.

I. Dr. Dever began with nine simple statements on preaching, preachers, and sermons, according to the Puritans. He warned that all note-takers would be frustrated because he did not have time to go slow, or to unpack these points (but he did go slow enough for me to record the meat).

1. Preaching Matters

2. Preachers are not just anyone

3. Regarding sermons and texts: texts are selected by series or special occasions. Puritans typically only interrupted a series for a ‘special message’ (e.g. Christmas)

4. Introductions to sermons must be short and related to the message

5. The structure of the sermon is: text, then truth

6. The content of the sermon: not just examining words, but whole sentences

7. Sermons should be true, biblical and helpful (all three of these characteristics are essential to a sermon).

8. Sermons should be clear

9. Every part of the sermon matters. Arguments must be solid. Illustrations must be effective

II. Controversy In Sermons

- A preacher must pick his fights carefully. He must deal with currently dangerous heresies, but not with every heresy that is around at the time, or that has ever been around. Controversy is important and allowable, only in so far is it is deemed needful. The Puritans were particularly concerned to defend the true biblical gospel against the ever encroaching Romanism in England and Arminianism in New England.

- Dr. Dever pointed out that this really reflects the New Testament way to preach. Note especially the New Testament Epistles – heresies are dealt with, but only the ones threatening the particular community. Controversies are dealt with, but not every controversy is dealt with.

III. Application is essential.

- Doctrine must never be left unapplied. A preacher must argue! William Perkins, in the earliest English Puritan book on Preaching, The Art of Prophesying, reminds preachers to remember the kinds of hearers there are. Again, this is in line with the New Testament model of preaching, especially the epistles. The New Testament authors commonly move from doctrine to application. James 1-2 in particular speaks directly at how dangerous unapplied truth is.

- Lives will be unaffected by truths unapplied!

- The Puritans believed that such application should be practical. Richard Sibbes, for example is always very practical in his sermons (Dr. Dever did his PhD at Cambridge in Richard Sibbes).

a. Puritan application deals with guilt, grace, and gratitude

- This application is not moralism – works based salvation

b. In application, deal with sin fully

- For example, notice Jonathan Edwards’ clarity on the sin of selfishness in Charity and Its Fruits.

- Notice that this is again, the New Testament way of preaching. For example, Romans 1-3 gives glory to God by exposing sin.

- Dr. Dever told a story about a woman who had been attending Capitol Hill Baptist, who was powerfully effected by the Word preached. Her entire world view had been transformed. On one occasion she was in tears as she realized this! He then exhorted the preachers not to forget the powerful infusion of reality that preaching is to those who are lost!

c. In application, comfort fully

- In a time of depression caused by over-working in the ministry, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was grateful to Richard Sibbes for providing salve for his soul. Particularly The Bruised Reed was a blessing to him.

- Notice that the New Testament books of Hebrews, 1 Peter, and Revelation were written specifically as encouragement for afflicted Christians

d. Sermons should cause self-examination

- For example, Paul is calling for serious self-examination in 1 Corinthians 11, etc.

e. Preach helpful doctrines

- One can’t preach every doctrine from every text. Choose the particular doctrine in the text that will be most helpful for the people. The truths we preach are timeless, but must be presented in the barb of our times.