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For me the sermon title is the handle by which the congregation can "carry" home the basic thrust of the message.  When I study a text I seek to find the context first, and then I seek to divide the text by its internal structure.  After that, I look for "The Big Idea."  The Big Idea is a term I borrow from Professor Haddon Robinson's book, Biblical Preaching.  The Big Idea is the one single main thought that ties together all the smaller thoughts in the text.  From this Big Idea I come up with the title for the sermon.  The title may simply be the Big Idea of the text, or a shorter more concise version of the Big Idea.  So, I really can't come up with the title until I've done most of the textual study of the passage.  For that reason I recommend that pastors stay at least a week ahead of their bulletin deadlines.

Incidentally, when you come up with the Big Idea/Title of the passage well ahead of time, it gives the Praise Team, Worship Coordinator a very good idea where this sermon is heading, so that the worship service is well-coordinated.  

Well put!  I have felt the same for many years!  And yet, my wife and I had a traditional Saturday afternoon wedding, and so did my three children.  Why is it so hard to break that tradition?

That's an excellent account of outreach and compassion done in a natural manner!  Thanks for sharing it.  It's very encouraging!

Ken Van De Griend

Thanks Larry!  Your words and example may well be used by the Lord to set other pastors free from this debilitating and dangerous disease!  Ken Van De Griend

I think you're right on George, but another reason Peterson might have said that is that smaller churches do not allow a new believer to disappear into the woodwork.  The smaller church needs its members to be active in carrying on the ministry of the church.  Larger churches can become comfortable places where one's faith is not exercised and stretched.

I agree with Brother Blacketer's comments.  This type of list does little to help--except maybe for one thing: By saying that the "CRC does not have it all together" is merely stating the obvious.  What denomination does have it all together--NONE!  I would refer interested readers to a book by Paul David Tripp with the title: "Dangerous Calling."  While it speaks of the work of pastors, it's just as true for elders, deacons and everyone.  The point of the book is that no one has it all together!  The moment we think we do, that's when we are in danger of losing the Gospel of God's grace through Christ!  So it making the list helps us to see that we don't have it all together, that's good.  But that's about all the good that will come from such a list.

Interesting comparison!  I don't have cable, so I don't know the story of Downton Abbey.  What I'm left wondering, however, at the end of your comparison is: What new means of fundraising do we need to employ?  What are some examples of funding that we must consider to stay in business and to keep the mission going?

Secondly, I wonder if the lower number of career missionaries isn't a good thing.  Might that be because we now realize that for real mission to have power and impact in the local community, it must be done by locals?  So rather than having career missionary families on the scene, isn't it better if someone from the West goes occasionally to train the locals, and then returns to the West leaving the national to carry on the ministry?

Thanks Hans.  I quite agree!  There's one other major reason for the decline that (like the elephant in the room) no one is talking about.  It's the issue of women in office.  Those of us who are opposed to women serving in the offices of the church have very little recognition or voice in the present CRC denomination.  As a result, many have left for other fellowships.

I'm pleased to hear of the "Justice and Excellence in Short Term Missions Think Tank."  I think its high time we consider seriously what we are trying to accomplish with short term missions.  Often such trips when considered thoughtfully will end up doing more harm than good.  I would refer the reader to a book by Brian Fikkert with the title: "When Helping Hurts."  When short term missions sends teams to go and do what the locals should be doing for themselves, that form of helping hurts the locals and creates unhealthy dependeny.  I trust that the "Justice and Excellence in Short Term Missions Think Tank" will give some much needed guidance in this area. 

Your interest in getting this kind of feedback is very encouraging to me.  I want to suggest that Calvin Seminary continue the focus on Expository Preaching that was begun by Neal Plantinga during his tenure.  I know this sounds obvious, but I believe there is a profound need in this area.  We preachers all feel we are expositors, but I hear too many sermons in CR Churches that are more fluff than well-exegeted opening of the Word.  The trend is to entertain rather than to focus on what God is saying through the passage under discussion that day.  The principles of hermeneutics need to be fleshed out clearly and then they should be practiced by the student until the student can demonstrate proficiency in utilizing these principles in constructing a sermon that is biblically based and Christologically focused.

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