Part 10—Preaching That Changes Lives, Michael Fabarez, Thomas Nelson, 2002.
Continuing with this series on the best books on preaching, we get to a book that goes into a bit of different direction than some of the others. Michael Fabarez’s book, Preaching That Changes Lives, is a book that reaches for a couple of areas of preaching. First, he believes that preaching can indeed change lives and then he goes into the reason that it does so. This works around the paramount issue of application. If there are not any areas of application that the preaching brings to the ears of the hearer, a call for change, for transformation and action, then we are just wasting our breath.
Paul said that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, rebuke, and instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Instruction in righteousness is the task that preaching uses to help the church to see how to walk in this world. Preaching has to be more than just the transference of facts about God that comes from an academic track, it has to be a presentation of Truth that helps us to see above the murky, humanistic, and godless views that this world touts on an hourly basis.
Fabarez spends the first two chapters writing about the power of preaching and believing that preaching can help change lives. In chapter 3, he will greatly provoke you by seeking to determine if the preaching is changing the preacher’s life. He starts with three very inflaming sentences:
The personal life of the preacher is the foundation upon which his every sermon stands. He certainly cannot expect to be used by God to change lives if his own life is stagnant. The New Testament’s emphasis on the character requirements of those entrusted with teaching responsibilities should be ample proof of this (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1), yet it is far from the only proof.
In this chapter there is a very heart-searching segment that deals with unconverted preachers. Years ago, I used to scoff at the idea of thinking that a pastor could be preaching, counseling, leading, and taking care of all the trappings of a church and not be converted. This was beyond my ability to comprehend. However as age and experience has come my way, it appears after wrestling with a passage in the Sermon on the Mount long enough, I finally have come to understand that an unconverted man can do all kinds of heroic, admired, and noble things and still be in an unconverted state. Consider what Jesus said:
Matthew 7:21-23 KJV Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
That should place everyone who is reading this blog into a serious, soul-searching mode. Have I really been converted? Fabarez quotes Richard Baxter on this matter:
See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that gospel which you preach; and lest, while you proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior, your own hearts should neglect him, and you should miss of an interest in him and his saving benefits. Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing.
Do you ever consider how many unconverted preachers will get up to preach this coming Sunday? All looks well outwardly but inwardly? ? ? This is why every preacher needs to be reading books that cause him to think in this manner. Fabarez continues in this chapter about the importance of spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading and prayer.
In chapter 4, the author puts forth some helpful hints to help a preacher to connect the text to the congregation. These hints are given as principles of study so that he will be able to take the Scripture and put it into a point of application. One of the things that he points out is the necessity of seeking out the imperative verbs or the commands that are given in the Scripture. You will benefit from reading this chapter particularly when he starts working with the process of application for yourself and those who hear you.
As Brother Jolley would say, “The price of the book is worth this sentence/paragraph/chapter!” I think the price is worth chapter 6. It is about the prayer connection to the message you are about to preach. He notes on old E. M. Bounds quote on prayer:
A ministry may be a very thoughtful ministry without prayer; the preacher may secure fame and popularity without prayer; the whole machinery of the preacher’s life and work may be run without the oil of prayer or with scarcely enough to grease one cog; but no ministry can be a spiritual one, securing holiness in the preacher and in his people, without prayer being made an evident and controlling force.
That kind of advice is pretty easy to forget when we have all the trendy little toys to help us “do” church. iPads, internet sermons, mp3’s, and computer-generated Bible programs galore can choke the life out of the preacher and subsequently choke the soul out of a church! Prayer must be a priority in my life (yours too!)!
Fabarez goes as far as to say that we ought to schedule prayer into every day of our pastoral calling. But he also very helpfully gives you a pattern of how to pray for your preaching. The more specific that we are in our prayer for our preaching the better off it will be to help someone. Preaching without praying is like asking a surgeon to use a scalpel that hasn’t been through the hands, soap, and heat of a component tech working in central sterile. Our soul must be sterilized of the world and ourselves before we do this most important task.
He notes that we should pray for the crafting of the sermon by five different requests:
1. Pray for it to be a part of your own life.
2. Pray for the protection of your study time.
3. Pray for God’s guidance that you will rightly divide the Word of Truth.
4. Pray that the words you use will be effective to communicate Truth.
5. Pray that you will have insight into the needs of the hearers as you prepare.
He also gives some suggestions to pray for the actual delivery of the message:
1. Pray that people will come to hear the Word.
2. Pray that they will come in the right frame of mind to hear the Word (remember the four soils?).
3. Pray that God will guard against distractions taking place in the delivery.
4. Pray that God will help you to use clear words so that understanding, illumination, and revelation will take place.
5. Ask God to help you preach the most effective, fruitful, and powerful sermon you will ever preach. (To do this regularly ought to be the desire in all of us who preach!)
He also gives the necessity of praying for a victory in the spiritual battle of preaching.
1. Pray that people will put the message into practice.
2. Pray that the sermon will not be mentally compartmentalized and left at church.
3. Pray that the application will be contagious among those who hear.
4. Pray that the sermon will be delivered repeatedly and that they cannot get away from the Word.
Chapter 7 is also a good chapter because it speaks of the time and thought requirements that goes into preaching a life-changing message. This chapter rang a tone that Brother Griffin used to mention in my TBC days. He would tell us that he could tell how much we loved God by two books that we all had in our possession. A check-book (gone by the way of ATM cards now) and our date book because he said that he could tell how much priority God had by where we spent our time and money. Fabarez goes at this same principle when he writes about the priority of preaching. How much time we spend with it can give an exact idea about how important it is to us. (You might revisit the Discipline of Study blogs that appeared here sometime back on Jeff Arnold, John Carroll, Ben Weeks, Doug White, J. H. Osborne, Jason Calhoun, Scott Graham) He encourages the preacher not to be lazy and a time-waster.
In chapter 9, Fabarez takes a sacred cow by the head and makes him a gourmet burger. He exhorts us to beware of people-centered sermons. This could be that old encouragement that came from a previous generation to find a need and then preach to that need. I drank that Kool-Aid pretty good in my early days. . . No More! No Mas! Never again! I don’t preach to meet the needs of people, I preach to magnify and glorify God! That is the sole purpose of preaching! Trendy pop psychology has almost effectively emasculated the Word of God and now the modern day church is in a horrible state of spiritual malnourishment.
Faberez gives some helpful guidelines for effective preaching:
- Clarify the effects of sin—Without Jesus Christ humanity’s efforts at being good always falls short.
- Display the power of Calvary—Every case of salvation will have to start in understanding that man has sinned and only the work of Calvary can save him.
- Call for a response—The main work of preaching is a call for conversion.
There are multiple other things you will glean from reading this book on preaching. I commend this volume to you.
To be continued. . .