Monday, January 16, 2017

Evaluating John MacArthur's Preaching Ministry (Phil Johnson)

While growing up the first expositor Phil Johnson was exposed to on a personal level was Warren Wiersbe.  Phil believes that Wiersbe is one of the great sermon outliners in contemporary preaching.  While Wiersbe focused much of his exposition on application he also made efforts to deal honestly with the Scriptural text.  Wiersbe's sermons lacked depth but they certainly did not lack clarity.

The next expositor Phil came to know and love was John MacArthur.  In 1977 Phil Johnson first met John MacArthur Jr., while MacArthur was on campus speaking at Moody Bible Institute.  Prior to John's message on Found God's Will Phil had never even heard of MacArthur "Jr."   If it had not been for a girl he liked (his now wife) he would not have gone to hear MacArthur preach at chapel.  Phil was immediately impressed with the way in which John handled the Word of God.  Johnson also remembers that John's "natural" preaching style was very easy to listen to. In God's good providence Phil Johnson arrived at Grace Community Church in 1983; at that time MacArthur was preaching through Matthew 19 in AM and Romans at night.  Since arriving at Grace Phil has edited many of John MacArthur's books including his New Testament commentary series.

Hughes Oliphant Old (a liberal professor) summarizes John's pulpit ministry quite well:
1) "MacArthur is first of all an expositor and after that a polemicist.
2) MacArthur fills his sermons with a wealth of factual material.
3) MacArthur has complete confidence in the Text.
4) MacArthur has an amazing ability to explain Scripture by Scripture.
5) MacArthur uses a variety of rhythms in his preaching with great effectiveness (pace, vocal variety, etc)."  

Olds concludes his article on MacArthur with this helpful insight, "Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools?  How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged?  Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of winning personality, good looks, or charm.  Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging.  No one would suggest that he is a master of oratory.  What he seems to have when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears.  It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest.  That is why one listens.

Practical tips for expositors:
A) Pay attention to how you communicate especially when behind the pulpit.

B) Try to pronounce every syllabus of every word.

C) Learn how to speak with fluidity and fluency.

Having said this, D) you need to find your own voice when proclaiming the Word of God (2 Tim. 4:1-4; 1 Pet. 4:10). Do not try and be someone else.

E) Preach God's Word with authority after you have carefully discerned the God intended meaning of the text (2 Tim. 2:15; Titus 2:15).

F) Use familiar language when preaching without being crass.

G) Pay attention to filler words that may detract your audience (um, like, just, etc).

H) Do not waste your God-given talents by not working diligently in your expository study.

I) Work hard to discover the main idea of the text.  Your introduction and conclusion will often be connected to the central thrust of the passage.

J) Use your sermon notes as landing lights.

K) Extemporaneous preaching is not the only way to herald God's truth.  Not everyone is wired or gifted the same way...what works for someone else might not work for you.

L) Always work on honing your craft.  Your spiritual progress should be evident to those you serve (1 Tim. 4:15).

M) Take your people deep (into the depths of God's Word) and then take them high (in praise).

N) Cover every facet of the text but do not become a running commentary.  The text itself should be the focal point of the sermon.

N) Follow the logical and syntactical flow of the text

O) Direct your messages to the mind and consciences of your hearer.

P) John is not the best outliner by any measure.  Having said that, do not allow your sermon outline to become a master over the authorial intent of the passage.  Many preachers impose a clever outline upon the inspired text.

Q) Rhetorical eloquence is not the primary goal of the expository preacher.

R) Cross references can greatly accentuate your expository sermons (see a Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge).

S) When possible, illustrate your preaching with biblical illustrations.

T) The first task of the preacher is to help his flock understand the Holy Spirit intended meaning of the sacred Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit is the one who often drives home (the application) of the inspired text.