A few weeks ago Chad Ashby, a pastor in South Carolina, wrote a helpful post on Preparing a Sermon from the Original Languages. Not only was this post a thorough explanation of what Chad does week-by-week for his sermon preparation, but also he gives the reason why pastors, who have training in the biblical languages, should begin their sermon preparation with them.
My reasons are pretty simple. First, I want to get my people as close to the original text as possible. If I’m studying in an English translation, I’m once removed from the original text. Then when I preach, my people receive it from me now twice removed from the original. But when I study the original Greek and Hebrew, that means my people are only once removed from the original text.
Second, as a pastor I am the resident expert. I don’t say this to be prideful, but let’s be honest: if I don’t understand Greek and Hebrew, no one else in the church will. After all, that’s why they pay us the big bucks!
Third, American pastors are extremely privileged compared to pastors of almost any other country or era. Most of us have been to seminary. We have had the opportunity and resources to take Greek and Hebrew. Hopefully we will try our best to show our gratitude to the Lord for his astounding grace by putting our education to use. (This is why it irks me to no end when seminarians talk about “just trying to get through Hebrew.”)
Inspired by Chad’s post, I’ve decided to write my own post about how I work on my sermons in preparation for Sunday morning and night.
After two and a half years of seminar work, writing papers, presentations, and flying to and from Kansas City, my final PhD seminar begins today. It has been a long and strenuous journey through my classes, and it seems odd that I have finally reached my final seminar before my comprehensive exam and dissertation.
I remember when my doctoral studies started in August 2014 and I mapped out my potential schedule, the “Dissertation Seminar” seemed all too far away. I had Old/New Testament Theology, Advanced Greek/Hebrew grammar, and various other courses that I looked forward to taking. I never thought this seminar would be reached, but slow and steady finishes the race.
The way Midwestern offers their non-residential courses allows the student to take two seminars each semester, but only one at a time. When one seminar ends, the next one possibly available for the student will begin the next day or a week later. For example, when my Old Testament Theology seminar ended in April 2015 my Adv. Greek Grammar began the very next week. Also, taking advantage of directed studies can speed up the degree as well. I was fortunate to take NT Theology and Adv. Hebrew Grammar in this format.
With the full support of my wife and congregation, I have not stopped my schooling since January 2015. In fact, my Adv. Hebrew class ended a week before our son was born, so this has been my first “break” since January 2015. Continue reading →
to enable the writer to think clearer and dictate a better grasp of the topic at hand.
to serve others.
If number one is done correctly the second will follow, whether to the agreement of the reader or not. The point, I believe, is that good writing produces good conversation within the broader academic/ecclesiastical world, to which I hope this blog will contribute some.
My purpose is to glorify God through my writing. As such, this venue allows me to think out loud in the public sphere of the internet and dialogue with others who agree or disagree with my suggestions. As will often be the case what I write is what I am working through myself and, as such, my view might change at a later time.
As a man becomes a better preacher through preaching, so we become better writers through writing.
Welcome to the world of biblical scholarship. I believe you are in for an exciting journey in your life where you will be stretched to read, write, argue, and think on perhaps a new level. If you will, allow me to encourage you on how to view your time in seminary. I have also written about what I learned from my time earning an M.Div, and you can find that article here.
First, enjoy the time you spend at school. There were students I had classes with who would lament and bemoan the fact they are in seminary because they were “ready to do ministry.” What they missed is the fact that they are doing ministry as they sit in the class. Not only does seminary serve as a time of preparation for your life in ministry, it is also a ministry in itself. We are learning, studying, reading, and praying. We are giving ourselves to the ministry of learning. To separate vocational ministry from academic ministry is something I would encourage you to avoid. Even when you are on your third research paper of the semester, enjoy the process because it will be over quickly.
For the pastor who, at most, preaches three times each week, the temptation is simply to coast week in and week out with little thought given to other theological issues outside of his sermon. After all, there are people to visit, meetings with the staff, and landmines that erupt on a moment’s notice that requires the pastor’s attention. Plus there are weeks when sermon preparation is all he can muster simply due from the demands of the week.
This temptation forces the pastor to serve as nothing more than a delivery man to his congregation. Sure he gets the passage diagrammed, commentaries read, sermon outline finished, and the manuscript typed, but the ideas are others and his sermon, rather than shaped by the text, has been shaped by commentaries. The pastor has not properly formulated any original idea but rather is the middle-man between the congregation and the “theologians.” Hiestand and Wilson noticed this trend and write that many,
don’t expect pastors to be theologians, certainly not scholars, at least not of a professional variety. Intellectually speaking, we expect pastors to function, at best, as intellectual middle management, passive conveyors of insights from theologians to laity. A little quote from Augustine here, a brief allusion to Bonhoeffer there. That’s all.
This is, sadly, the case. Most congregations expect the pastor to be primarily a counselor or serve as a business man who has ideas to increase attendance and giving. I don’t think, as Hiestand and Wilson comment later on, this is necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. After all, the pastor’s responsibility is to communicate the Word of God in effective ways to his congregation through words. We must simplify theological issues so that others may understand. But if this is all the pastor in doing, I believe he suffers. Continue reading →
The issue of the Pastor-Theologian is of specific interest to me, as the title of my blog indicates, because this is something I aim to fulfill in my ministry right now. This is why I read Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson’s work The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Visionwith great encouragement because I finally found this wrinkled vision in my mind ironed out just a bit smoother. As Rishmawy indicates, Hiestand and Wilson argue for the position of ecclesial theologian — that being the pastor as one who not only interacts with the life of his church but as well as participating and (perhaps) leading conversations in the academy. I agree with Rishmawy, in this case the pastor-theologian is a scholar. Continue reading →
Can the church of Jesus Christ, who has been bought by his blood, be culturally relevant? What I mean is, can the church submit to the Lordship of Jesus while simultaneously catering to the needs of the culture? Perhaps this is still somewhat broad, so let me narrow it down with a “case study.”
Say you are new in town and as you are searching for a church to visit, you come across one who claims to be culturally relevant. What they mean by culturally relevant is they seek to make the worship service (singing/music) mirror that of the culture. What you will have is the light show, fog machines, and songs that are wanting in content. The pastor will preach a message that sounds like the gospel, but the content more or less focuses upon you doing something (Don’t Fear; Be Encouraged; Love Yourself; etc.). A speaking of the purpose for Christ’s death and why repentance is required lacks, but it seems that these people love Jesus while they seek to be relevant to the culture. Is this possible?