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Haddon Robinson grabbed an ice pick and headed out the door to join his gang. They were intent on avenging the murders of three of their members.

Association with a gang was a matter of survival for a young man growing up in the Mousetown section of Harlem in the 1940s. Haddon’s mother had died when he was a boy, and his father worked a 2 to 11 p.m. shift, so no one was home to stop him.

As the gang members emerged from an alley, a policeman apprehended them. For whatever reason, the officer singled out Haddon, searched him, and found his ice pick. “What do you plan to do with this?” the officer asked. “Chop ice,” Haddon replied. At that, the officer kicked him to the ground, swore at him, and made him return home. That night, several of Haddon’s fellow gang members would lose their lives in a brutal brawl. As he later reflected, “The foot of that policeman was the hand of God in my life.”

Life Devoted to Preaching

God’s hand continued to work in Haddon’s life, shaping him into a devoted follower of Jesus who eventually became a dean of evangelical preaching. He is best known for his book Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages—first published it in 1980 and currently in its third edition. I once asked Haddon how he was able to make his book “sing.” He told me he delivered the first draft orally to his secretary while pacing back and forth in his office.

On July 22, 2017, Haddon entered the presence of the Lord. He died in his sleep almost three years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I am one of his many former students who will be forever grateful for his imprint on our lives. This self-described “latchkey kid” from a vicious, violent district in New York City taught us grace, godliness, and how to preach the Scriptures.

Haddon’s interest in preaching began shortly after his conversion to Christ when Harry Ironside, the renowned pastor of Chicago’s Moody Church, visited New York City. Of Ironside’s preaching, Haddon wrote in his diary: “He preached for an hour and it seemed like 20 minutes; others preach for 20 minutes and it seems like an hour. I wonder what the difference is.” A few years ago, Haddon said: “I have devoted my life to answering that question.”

Haddon’s call to preach was solidified while a student at Bob Jones University. There, he heard leading preachers in chapel and often spent Friday nights in the library reading sermons and books about preaching. When he enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary, the school didn’t offer classes in preaching. During his senior year, a few classmates asked him to teach them how to preach. This eventually led to an invitation for Haddon to return from an assistant pastorate in Medford, Oregon, to teach homiletics at DTS. “I went back because they needed a ‘low-dollar person,’” he recalled. “They hired me on the basis of gift, not education.” Haddon often quipped that friends would marvel at how he didn’t become an atheist after listening to so many student sermons.

When I reflect on how Haddon shaped evangelical preaching, I think of three particular convictions he taught and modeled.

1. Need for a Big Idea

Haddon wrote his classic preaching textbook in an era when expository preaching was often reduced to an exegetical lecture. He was concerned that listeners would walk away from a sermon “with a basketful of fragments but not an adequate sense of the whole.” One of his witticisms (which his students called “Haddonisms”) expressed his concern: “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.”

The hallmark of Haddon’s approach to exposition lies in identifying and communicating a biblical text’s “big idea.” Some have questioned this approach, arguing that it’s artificial and works better in some passages than in others. They’re concerned about reducing the richness of a text to a single idea. Yet Haddon saw the “big idea” approach as a way of communicating a biblical text precisely so that listeners could access its riches. He observed: “Sermons seldom fail because they have too many ideas; more often they fail because they deal with unrelated ideas.”

Haddon believed preachers are not ready to preach a text until, in the words of John Henry Jowett, the big idea “has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon.”

2. Need to Exegete Both Text and Listener

Robinson insisted his students work hard to understand both the text and the listeners to whom we preach. I remember him grilling me in class over my exegesis of a passage in the Gospel of Mark. My fellow students and I had to exegete a particular text and then discuss how we would preach it. I remember saying, “This is how I plan to preach this text.” Haddon replied, “No you won’t. Try it again.” So I tried it again, and he said: “That won’t do. Try it again.” By the end of my presentation, I was frustrated. Yet Haddon approached me after class and told me how glad he was to have me in his DMin program in preaching. I realized he was pushing us to understand deeply the author’s intended meaning.

Haddon also insisted that we exegete our listeners. What do they value? What are their needs? What do they need explained, validated (proved), or applied when they hear a biblical text proclaimed? He had no patience with the “stained-glass voice” and “three points and a poem” approach of many pastors. He believed it dulled the senses of listeners. I remember Haddon interrupting a sermon one of my classmates was preaching in class. He suddenly started waving his arms and said, “Stop right there! Stop. Do you use that kind of a voice when you order a meal at McDonalds? Then don’t use it when preaching.” He chided the sermon outline of a friend of mine, saying: “That sounds like it came out of a book called Simple Sermons for Sunday Evening.”

3. Need for Godliness

Haddon admonished his students with Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:16: “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” He warned us: “When you fail to walk with God, you walk on the edge of an abyss.” This is something he modeled well. Haddon was a man of God before he was a spokesman for God. He was a man of godly integrity, a man of tenderness as well as toughness. I never once heard him criticize his critics, though I remember the opening to one of his prayers: “Lord, I am a sinful man in need of your grace.”

Though brilliant and full of insight, Haddon was not full of himself. In 1996 a Baylor University poll named him one of “The 12 Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World.” Once, when asked about the honor, Haddon shook his head: “How in the world do you come up with a conclusion like that?” As he has famously said: “There are no great preachers, only a great Christ.”

Selfless Servant

Part of Haddon’s godly grace was his expression of love and care to others. I’ll never forget how he encouraged and prayed for a struggling yogurt shop owner near Gordon-Conwell’s campus. She had come to faith in Christ through his radio ministry and couldn’t believe he was “that Haddon Robinson.” He gently insisted that we, his students, give her our business to help her pay her bills.

When I had to miss my graduation ceremony at Gordon-Conwell due to a family member’s illness, Haddon called the day after to tell me how sorry he was and to inquire about my family member. By the end of the phone call, he agreed to fly to Montana—where I was pastoring at the time—to present me with my hood and diploma. This seems rather remarkable, but it was a rather typical act of kindness for Haddon.

For the rest of the post…

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Haddon Robinson

I hadn’t planned to post today.

I received word today that Haddon Robinson passed away this morning. Haddon served as the the Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He wrote Biblical Preaching, a classic textbook on preaching. He’s taught thousands of preachers in his tenures at Dallas Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell.

I had the privilege of taking my Doctor of Ministry under Haddon from 2004-2007. I learned much from Haddon as a preacher, but I learned even more from Haddon as a man. Haddon exuded integrity and humility. He’s one of the best men I’ve ever known.

I was more than a little nervous when it came time to defend my thesis before Haddon. My advisor was positive, but I knew his opinion would not stand before Haddon’s. Haddon asked some pointed questions and raised a few good points, but somehow forgot to tell me at the end if I’d passed. It turns out that I had.

Every year a group of D.Min. Graduates gathered to study a book of the Bible with Haddon and a commentator. We continued to learn from Haddon even after our formal studies concluded. You could tell when Haddon was speaking: every time Haddon rose to speak, the room was filled with the sound of typists trying to keep up with Haddon’s thoughts. I’m grateful now that we were able to capture many of his unscripted comments.

It’s tempting to write a hagiography when it comes to someone like Haddon. He wasn’t perfect, and he was the first to admit it. That, in part, is what drew us to him. It’s clear that Haddon walked closely with God, and as such he wasn’t overly impressed with himself. “There are no great preachers,” he said, “only a great Christ.”

I last saw Haddon in December of last year. He wasn’t doing well, but he continued to live as a man who loved God and loved his family. He was also loved by so many of us who had the privilege of knowing him.

For the rest of the post…

Early this morning, on July 22 2017, Dr. Haddon Robinson departed this world and went home to heaven!

The Ongoing Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

December 05, 2012

Bryan Galloway is Senior Pastor at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Bryan graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in May 2009 with a Doctor of Ministry. His thesis-project was on the difference that Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes in twenty-first century preaching.

I’m grateful that Bryan was willing to answer some questions about Bonhoeffer and his ongoing legacy.

How did you get interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

I became interested with Dietrich Bonhoeffer when I was a college student at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN. Dr. Al Glenn introduced me to Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship. I was fascinated by Bonhoeffer’s blunt approach to discipleship and fellowship; and by his story of a pastor who stood up to Hitler and Nazi polices.

For the rest of the interview…

By Jeff Schapiro , Christian Post Reporter
May 3, 2012

A professor of preaching says that pastors need more moral courage to deliver the Gospel message in today’s skeptical world.

Haddon Robinson, who currently serves as the distinguished professor of preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., told The Christian Post Thursday that the media is much bolder in its criticisms of the church than it used to be, and in many ways it builds upon the skepticism already found in the culture. This dramatic shift in attitude toward the church and the Bible means, to some extent, preachers may have to adjust their approach to preaching.

“When I started preaching years ago, the church had home-field advantage. People respected it. They may not have lived up to its teaching, but they would think, ‘Church is certainly a fine moral example’…that’s no longer true,” Robinson said.

“I think the thing that is needed now is moral courage,” he said.

Robinson was the featured speaker at the first annual National Ministry Conference last week. The conference, which focused on the topic of “Preaching Into the Wind: Biblical Preaching in a Skeptical Culture,” was held at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif.

Robinson was named among “the most effective” English-speaking preachers in the world in a Baylor University survey in 1996.

For the rest of the post…

“The worldview is fashioned by the person using it. The average Christian spends about 90 minutes in church. The average person watches 29 hours of TV per week.”

How much time each week do we read the Word of God?

About meditation on God’s Word?

Today as Dr. Bruce Waltke was teaching us about Psalm 1, he stated…

The wicked disadvantage others to advantage self. The righteous disadvantage self to advantage others (This is the way of Jesus). There are many good people who are self-contained.

KNOX Professor – Dr. Bruce K. Waltke

waltke

Distinguished Professor of Old Testament

Houghton College, A.B.; Dallas Theological Seminary, Th.M., Th.D.; Harvard University, Ph.D.

Dr. Bruce Waltke, one of the preeminent Old Testament scholars, holds a doctorate in Greek and New Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary and a doctorate in Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literature from Harvard. His teaching career, spanning Dallas Theological Seminary, Regent College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary won him a reputation of being a master teacher with a pastoral heart. Dr. Waltke also pastored several churches, lectured at many Evangelical Seminaries in North America and has spoken at numerous Bible conferences.

He is a member of the Committee of Bible Translation of the New International Version and helped translate the New American Standard Version. He served as editor for the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, The New Geneva Study Bible and Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.

Dr. Waltke has traveled widely as a Bible expositor, as an Area Supervisor for excavations at Gezer, Israel, and as Director of field study trips to the Middle East and the Classical World. He is married and has three grown children.

Later today I head to Lake Geneva, WI for a study retreat for those who graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry degree with The Preacher & The Message. It will be good to see Dr. Haddon Robinson again and many of my friends!

We are staying at the Covenant Harbor Geneva Bay Center in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.


To me it was. Back in 2004, Darryl Dash and I started a D.Min. track at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary called The Preacher & The Message under Dr. Haddon Robinson. Darryl graduated in 2007 while I finally made it in 2009. Darryl blogged a great post on the pursuit of D.Min. degree. It is a good read…

Is a D.Min. in Your Future?

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