Jeremiah Greever

About Jeremiah Greever

Jeremiah's Blog
Jeremiah Greever serves as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church St. John in St.Louis, MO, and teaches as an adjunct professor at Missouri Baptist University. He actively writes for The Pathway and serves as the Social Media Manager for the Founders Conference Midwest. Jeremiah received his M. Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also served as an intern for Dr. Mohler. He is married to his lovely wife, Sadie, is the father to the happiest baby in the world, Judah Edward, and enjoys reading, running, and participating in any sport.



Duties of Christian Fellowship Book Review

Duties of Christian Fellowship Book Review

Duties of Christian Fellowship

by John Owen
Length: Approximately 1 hours. To read (95 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Duties of Christian Fellowship is a necessary book that deals with the practical aspects of interaction amongst believers covenanted in a local congregation. Dealing with the relational aspects between church leaders and the congregation, Owen mines Scripture to understand how Christians can faithfully interact with one another.

Who should read tihs?

Though the name, “John Owen” might cause fear in the mind of some readers due to his high intellect, this short, concise work is attainable to readers of every level. Written from the basic premise that fellowship is required amongst the body of Christ, Owen works on a practical level of delving into the tenants of church fellowship. The book is written primarily for the average church congregant and is intended to be read by those who have covenanted with a local body of believers.

Duties of Christian Fellowship Book Review 1

SUMMARY

How

Published by Banner of Truth, the book begins by offering suggested uses for the book. The editors explain that while the vocabulary has been modernized to suit a modern audience, the mood and intention of the book has been left unchanged. The editors took the liberty of adding questions for self-examination throughout the book, offering introspection for the reader. With this helpful lead in, the editors prepare the reader for the Foreword written by Owen, which explains the purpose of the book and how to benefit best from it.

The rest of the book is divided into twenty-two rules. The first seven rules comprise section one, which addresses the relationship between the pastor and the congregants. The final fifteen rules comprise section two, which highlights biblical fellowship between congregants within the church. The formula used by Owen is always a statement of a rule (guideline), Scriptural support for the rule, a short explanation of the rule, and editorial questions for consideration.

Why

Owen’s purpose for this short work is perhaps best explained by Owen himself in the Foreword: “…seek to draw believers from the entanglements of arguments about church matters and to engage them in the serious and humble performance of those duties which are, by the express command of Christ, required of us all.” (10) Living in 17th century England, Owen wrote this book as a pastoral, practical guidance for the lay people of the local church.

Owen understood that fellowship among the local body of believers cannot be assumed, but instead can only be attained with a right understanding of ecclesiology. Therefore, he sought to give groundwork for why church fellowship is essential, why Christians must strive for unity amongst the brethren, and how believers can attain church fellowship.

Owen also wrote during a contentious time between the Puritans and the Church of England. Whereas the Church of England’s theology espoused a faith that led to practicing good works, Owen argued for the importance of fellowship with other brethren. He understood that the local church is more than just a group of believers practicing and teaching good doctrine together. Instead, the relationships between the pastor to congregant and intra-congregation are essential in understanding the unity and fellowship between the believer and Christ.

What

Whereas one might assume that a book on fellowship would begin with addressing lay people’s personal interactions with one another, Owen’s argument begins with the first seven rules relating to the congregation’s relationship with the pastor. This relationship is foundational to the entire fellowship and unity of the church.

Frequently, Owen argues for submission, obedience, and observance of the pastor’s life. Owen makes the case that the pastoral office is ordained by God and is thus for the benefit and betterment of the church as a whole. As an ordained office, each believer is in need of the leadership and guidance brought by the under-shepherd of Christ.

Bleeding Scripture into every page and rule given, Owen ensures that each rule is not human opinion, but rather biblical commands. Speaking as a pastor himself, Owen understood the importance of a unified fellowship between pastor and congregant. For the Word of God to be promulgated throughout the church and beyond, the pastor must be encouraged and supported in his work of speaking truth. Were the congregation to be divisive and antagonistic to the pastor and his proclamation of truth, then fellowship within the church would be nonexistent.

Dealing with primarily theological themes (submission to authority, observing and emulating godly living, etc.), Owen also gives intensely practical rules as well. He challenges congregations to sufficiently tend to the financial concerns of the pastor, to continually be in prayer for the pastor, to support and stand by the pastor, and to gather at the pastor’s designated church time. Each of these rules are intended to promote a meek and submissive heart from the congregant to the pastor.

Owen understood that church leadership is not about intimidation, control over one another, or a desire for power. Instead, God has placed each pastor over individual local churches for the purpose of tending to the spiritual needs of the people. Local congregations are bettered by having a godly pastor, and the church that cares well for their pastor not only obeys God’s commands, but also helps continue the ministry of the church.

Building from the first seven rules, the final fifteen rules apply directly to the relationship amongst lay people. Owen claims that love for the brethren must first stem from a love for Christ. Fellowship comes from the heart of one who is redeemed and loves Christ. Owen claims that love for Christ always precedes love for the church. Therefore, those who submit to God will look to be unified in fellowship with one another.

Ultimately, fellowship in the local church is for the sake of purifying the bride of Christ by promoting holiness, godliness, and kindness to one another. Owen essentially describes fellowship amongst brethren as relational care for another, stemming from a heart that desires a pure bride of Christ. Drawing from Christ’s example, Owen calls for believers to carry one another’s spiritual and physical burdens. In doing so, Christians demonstrate changed affections from a love of the world to a love for what Christ loves – his bride, the church.

Owen’s final rule in describing Christian fellowship calls for believers to be so committed to Christ and the church in daily living that even the unredeemed take notice. Christian unity in the church must be so tangible and visible that it is desired by those who surround it. For the church that desires holiness and fellowship amongst themselves in obedience to Christ, the Gospel will be validated in the lives of those who claim it.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

While Duties of Christian Fellowship is significantly different than much of Owen’s regular writing, it certainly is a valuable read. Instead of a complex, theological treatise, Owen intentionally writes from a predominantly practical perspective. Allowing biblical theology to drive his rules, he focuses on practical interaction with one another within the confines of the local church. Due to this obvious accessibility, I found the book potentially helpful for every lay person. He spoke to the level of the average lay person, and obviously strove to help facilitate right fellowship within the church.

Reading as a pastor, I appreciated especially the foundational starting point of Owen’s work – fellowship amongst the pastorate and the congregant. Too often, there is disjunction between the two, either because of pride or uncertainty. This book helps remind the pastor of the expectations of his office – preaching faithfully the Word of God and living an exemplary life in obedience to God – and reminds the congregant why fellowship is commanded and necessary.

Therefore, because of my appreciation for Owen’s efforts, I selected this work for study for a men’s discipleship group at my church. In a predominantly individualistic culture, this book’s challenges, gives unique perspectives, and offers helpful encouragements concerning what the local body of Christ needs to hear and take heed.

Strengths

There are many strengths to Owen’s work. Owen is realistic in understanding the practical needs and concerns of both the pastorate and congregant. He doesn’t speak above the reader, but rather addresses important issues with which every church deals. Owen rightly diagnoses that fellowship within the church is often misunderstood, even among well intentioned believers.

Owens progression of rules build upon one another to succinctly articulate the reasons why believers must fellowship with one another and how it is possible within the confines of the local church. By taking each rule to the logical conclusion, Owen demonstrates that fellowship is a necessity among believers, coming secondarily from a love for Christ and His Word.

Perhaps the greatest strength in Duties of Christian Fellowship, however, is the undeniable biblical evidence given by Owen. For every assertion about fellowship and Christian relationship, Owen always gives biblical proof. He rightly understood that opinions are always secondary to the truths depicted within God’s Word. Therefore, every single rule, and often the following explanations, consistently quote proof texts. Owen’s book is dripping with Scriptural truth to give proof to each assertion.

Weaknesses

While Owen gives a remarkable amount of Scripture to indicate the truth behind each rule, his personal explanations are sometimes lacking. For some of the rules, after stating proof texts, Owen quickly summarizes the point, without giving a more wholistic understanding of his reasoning. Undoubtedly, Owen was striving to keep this book short and approachable to the lay people. While he attained this aspiration, he could have included further insights to better make his argument as a whole.

A final weakness of the book is not of Owen’s writing but of the editors’. At the conclusion of each rule, the editors included a set of questions for the reader to consider either in a group setting or individually. Often the questions are overly basic, unhelpful for groups, and lacking in pushing the issue further. Questions driving to the heart of Owen’s argument and forcing the reader to honestly asses himself would have been much more advantageous to the book.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I greatly appreciated Owen’s work and his heart behind the work. In a culture marked by indifferent individualism and blatant disregard for accountability, this book strikingly stands out. Owen challenges Christians to take their faith seriously, and to strive for biblical relationships within the church.

Duties of Christian Fellowship is a short, classic book that is necessary as a foundation for believers to understand their role in the local church, and how they ought to interact with one another as the bride of Christ.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “If a man teaches uprightly but walks crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.” (18)

  • “If, according to these names [of pastors], they honour God as they ought, God will also honour them as he has promised, and God’s people, in all conscience, are to esteem them highly for their work’s sake. But if any of them are fallen angels, falling stars, negligent bishops, treacherous ambassadors, lordly reveling stewards, tyrannical or foolish leaders, blind guides or unsavoury salt, the Lord and his people will abhor them.” (23)

  • “Those who are not concerned in the troubles, sorrows, trials, wants, poverties, and persecutions of the saints, not even so as to pity their wounds, to feel their blows, to refresh their spirits, to help bear their burdens upon their own shoulders, can never assure themselves that they are united to the head of those saints.” (62)
four-stars
By | 2018-03-11T01:52:39+00:00 March 13th, 2018|

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism Book Review

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism Book Review

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism

by Timothy Keller
Length: Approximately 8 hours. To read (240 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, is a helpful resource for those seeking to grow both in preaching and the ministry. Timothy Keller deals with the essentials of preaching, while focusing primarily on keeping Christ central to the very heart of every sermon. Keller goes to great strides to demonstrate the importance of every homily finding the biblical narrative of Christ that flows throughout Scripture.

Who should read this?

Preaching is laid out clearly and primarily for those currently in the ministry, or training to be in the ministry. He challenges preachers to reevaluate their view and understanding of preaching. However, Preaching is also helpful for the entire church. Whether through holding local pastors accountable to clear Gospel preaching or for better understanding sermons, Preaching is a helpful resource to all laypeople. With Keller’s vast experience as preaching pastor, he is able to speak personally and concisely on the issue of Gospel centered preaching.

Preaching Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Timothy Keller understood that preaching is an ever-shifting process and one that is greatly affected by society. Sensing a need to solidify the core tenants to biblical preaching, Keller wrote this book for the average pastor struggling to consistently preach biblical truths. Keller heavily relies on historical precedence of key preachers to highlight the need for a resurgence in biblical understanding and preaching. Keller writes in a very accessible manner that is borderline conversational.

Keller structures his book into three distinct sections – Part 1, Serving the Word; Part 2, Reaching the People; and Part 3, In Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power. Each section is intended to walk through the process of sermon preparation, while also demonstrating the intention for all sermons.

By giving primary focus and importance to God’s Word and the Spirit’s work in the preacher’s heart, Keller shows how the preacher must look to the Lord in both sermon preparation and sermon delivery. He also makes certain to speak to both the intellect of preaching as well as the active call to obedience that preaching must generate. Preaching is not simply a “how-to” book, but instead an intentional focus on the heart, the message, and the ministry of preaching.

The purpose of Keller’s most recent work is perhaps best explained through his own definition – “The purpose of preaching is to preach the Scripture with its own insights, directives, and teachings.” (29) Keller seeks to establish a solid, biblical foundation upon which preachers can build their homiletical understanding. Through quotations and helpful book recommendations, Keller acknowledges the works of others in this particular field.

However, even though many other books and publications have addressed the art of preaching, Keller correctly recognized the need for a modern resource highlighting the essentials of Gospel preaching. Keller did not write this book seeking to contradict other valuable works about preaching (e.g. Bryan Chappell’s Christ-Centered Preaching), but rather to use as an additional resource for the contextualization of biblical preaching.

From the beginning of the book, Keller seeks to define and further enumerate the characteristics and “levels” of preaching. To Keller, sharing the gospel has different levels depending on the people present as well as the situation.  The three levels espoused by Keller is “the formal public address to a gathered congregation”, the “teaching and admonition” that every Christian should be able to engage in, and a sort of middle ground- writing, blogging, small groups, and mentoring. (1-4) By these three levels, Keller is paying homage to the biblical command to preach the gospel in situations that are formal, informal, and everything in-between.  

However, while Keller acknowledges the need for all three levels, he particularly highlights the first level-formally preaching God’s Word. Using scriptural evidence, Keller asserts the importance of both God’s Word being publically preached as well as the importance of hearing Scripture proclaimed. (John 17:17, Colossians 3:16-17) After highlighting the importance of the public preaching of God’s Word, Keller delves into the debate about what makes preaching excellent. Keller answers this question by quoting William Perkins, “The Word of God alone is to be preached, in its perfection and inner consistency.” (27) Keller continually asserts that a faithful preacher will work and strive to be faithful to the text.

Realizing that the greatest strength of preaching comes from remaining faithful to the text, Keller addresses the essential aspect that must be in every sermon-preaching Christ. Keller is careful to not promote a disrespect or degradation of the text. He is careful to illustrate that the preacher should be faithful to the text instead of forcing a passage to say something it is clearly not.

In response to the skeptics who argue that every text does not lead directly to Christ, Keller quotes Spurgeon in asserting, “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’” (68) Keller enforces Spurgeon’s assertion of finding Christ in each passage as the essential beginning point to every sermon.

Arguably the most difficult way to preach Christ from every passage of the Bible is the numerous Scriptures that seemingly have no direction or connection to Christ. Keller insists that the biblically minded preacher will instinctively have an inclination that each passage (even the boring or difficult) will somehow lead to Christ. (86-87) In this manner, Keller demonstrates the importance of seeing Christ throughout all of Scripture-from the prophets, psalms, narratives, and epistles.

After spending a sufficient amount of time exonerating the preacher to focus the homily on Christ, Keller moves to understanding the context and culture of the congregation. (93) Keller recommends that the preacher have an acceptable grasp on the context of the specific area and people to which the preacher is ministering. Perhaps the greatest lesson taken from the contextualization section is knowing and understanding both the vocabulary and needs or interests of the people. In order for a preacher to be effective in his ministry, he must first know how the people talk and what is most interesting and important to them. (105-106)

Keller then addresses the modern mindset that has beset modern society. Keller seeks to expose modernity’s craving for individualism by illustrating the believer’s freedom and identity found ultimately in Christ. Keller asserts that the preacher must not only understand people’s desire to be expressed and form their own identity, but also be able to show the same people that their fulfillment is found in Christ. (133) Keller encourages the preacher to not be scared or shy addressing the modern views of individualism and relativism expressed in society. Rather, Keller contends that Christ’s presence should be enough to empower and embolden the faithful preacher. (155-156)

Finally, Keller speaks to both the importance of preaching from the heart and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Keller realizes that preaching cannot be cold, mechanical, or stoic. Rather, the preacher is encouraged to preach out of the emotional affections provided for the one who fears God. (160-161) Keller thus gives practical instructions of how to preach from the heart (Christocentrically, memorably, imaginatively, and affectionately). (167-179) In his closing section, Keller emphasizes the grave importance of realizing the authority and power given from the Holy Spirit.

Keller affirms that without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power, the preacher is unable to preach with the necessary warmth and force that is preferable and necessary. (197-198) The final pages of Keller’s wondrously helpful book lay out practical advice and instruction on writing an expository sermon. This helpful appendix serves as a guideline for the faithful preacher seeking to faithfully exegete a text for a sermon.

ANALYSIS

Keller’s work is abundantly helpful when considering the future of preaching and preaching to the modern congregation. Modern congregations are no longer satisfied with simple explanations about morality, the Bible, and society. Millennials in particular long for messages from the heart that cut straight to the center of each issue and why Christians should follow faithfully God’s Word.

Keller does this in his book. Throughout the book Keller encourages preachers to remain true to the text while at the same time faithfully preaching Christ. As a pastor who preaches multiple times a week, I personally greatly appreciated Keller’s encouragement for pastors to remain Christo-centric. His attention to all details of the preacher’s work in accurately preparing sermons was both needed and excellent. As a pastor, I can honestly state that this book sufficiently aids the calling of every Gospel-minded preacher.

Strengths

Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is Keller’s ability to see Christ even in the most difficult passages of Scripture. Using Judges 19 as an example, Keller demonstrates how even the most strange and salacious parts of Scripture must be interpreted through the lens of Christ. (86-87) This assertion is tremendously helpful to prove to preachers that no text is outside the boundaries of relating to Christ. This helpful assertion to preach Christ especially in the tough texts gives a backbone to Keller’s entire book.

Keller also excels well in stressing the importance of preaching from a heart of love and understanding. Too often preachers of the past have preached the same sermons condemning sin and the sinner without offering the hope of Christ. Sinners and congregations absolutely need to hear condemnation for their sin, but without a preacher’s kind and gentle offering, far too often this message falls on deaf ears. While God certainly can perform anything, Keller understands better than most the importance of the preacher’s heart being softened to the gospel.   

As every author does, Keller does bring a specific worldview and preconception to his book. Perhaps the worldview best displayed in his writing in his reformed theological stance. Because of his understanding of this theology, Keller never places the burden of changing hearts directly on the preacher.

As so many other books on preaching so often are guilty of, Keller refrains from giving all authority to save sinners to the preacher. Instead, Keller demonstrates the power and authority of God, specifically through his Word and the Holy Spirit. Particularly in the final chapter, Keller stresses the role that the Holy Spirit plays both in giving words to the preacher as well as changing sinners’ hearts. (210-212)

Because of Keller’s theological nuances brought to this work, his book has more of an encouraging aspect to it than most. Instead of burdening the minister, Keller strives to encourage preachers to trust in the Lord and remain faithful. Keller does, however, give amble attention to the readiness and preparation that the preacher must give to the text and the social context of his congregation before each sermon.

He stresses that the preacher must understand the issues and concerns of his people to adequately address their needs. However, Keller ultimately points the preacher to Christ and calls for the preacher to rest and hope in the power and authority of the Lord.

Weaknesses

Timothy Keller’s perspective on preaching comes from a very specific background – urban preaching. Since he served for many years pastoring a church in New York City, his practical applications towards societal issues generally tend towards urban settings and issues.

While Keller is accurate that preachers across all socio-economical and various environments must focus on biblical accuracy, his modern applications are less general and more specific. Especially for a rural pastor, some phrases and applications that Keller uses will not apply to their settings.

Serving in a New York City urban church gives Keller a perspective and nuance that many preachers and authors do not have. Keller is able to interact with people who busily speed through life, always looking for the next flavor of happiness. Keller’s experience working with these people gives him a unique perspective to understand the changing currents of this generation and society.

While not all churches are the same as his New York City church, many churches universally share the same situations, needs, and concerns that Keller addresses on a weekly basis. Society is desperately seeking to know what Christians believe and say concerning moral and social issues, and Keller’s book empowers and aids the preacher in finding and addressing these issues faithful from the biblical text.

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism
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CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Keller’s work is essential in a modern world that has lost its ability to see Christ in the Scriptures. Keller’s work shines bright in a world of darkness calling out to preachers of the goodness and mercy of Christ that is exuded through Scripture. Keller’s work has the potential to influence not only preachers in this generation, but many generations to come.

The book is a blessing to any preacher who sincerely longs to faithful preach God’s Word, and can serve as a resource for continually pointing the preacher to Christ. Keller has offered a significant work to a generation desperately needing guidance. In the same way that faithful preachers throughout the millennia’s have pointed others to Christ, so too has Keller assured his influence to dependably guide preachers to faithfully preach Christ.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “However, while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher.” (11)

 

  • “Paul understood that all Scripture ultimately pointed to Jesus and his salvation; that every prophet, priest, and king was shedding light on the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King.” (15)

 

  • “If you want to preach to the heart, you need to preach from the heart. It’s got to be clear that your own heart has been reached by the truth of the text…What is required is that as you speak it becomes evident in all sorts of ways that you yourself have been humbled, wounded, healed, comforted, and exalted by the truths you are presenting, and that they have genuine power in your life.” (166-167)
four-half-stars
By | 2018-02-16T02:59:01+00:00 February 17th, 2018|

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