Friday, June 15, 2007

Preach the word

So I've recently completed a course at Carey bible college on preaching. I learnt lots of really helpful stuff and had the opportunity to write and deliver sermons with feedback, and enjoyed interacting with other students from across New Zealand as we came together to become better handlers of the bible. Completing the course has helped me write better talks and taught me some new tools and reminded of refocused my view of the importance of handling the bible well.

Paul Windsor taught us 15 helpful steps that he uses when preparing a sermon. Not that he was teaching some sort of golden formula where a person could plug in a bible passage and a sermon would come out the other end, rather he was giving us a framework to help us write sermons and helping us make sure that sure that our convictions and motivations about preaching were right.

Some of the steps I was familiar with from writing bible studies (understanding the context of a passage, utilising a number of translation etc.) but I also learnt a lot of news things in terms of structuring a sermon, the use of illustrations, the importance of bearing in mind those who you will be speaking to as your prepare and different forms of preaching (narrative preaching was new to me). I also learnt a bit about myself and how I shape how I speak and prepare. It is in my nature to try to observe, interpret and apply what is going in a passage all at once which gets me in a muddle because something I observe later in a passage changes how I interpreted something earlier in the passage. I probably do this out of a mixture of over-excitement (because I have come to love studying the bible), and impatience (I want it to take less time than it should to prepare a talk or bible study). I have to fight to stick to observe, interpret, apply as seperrate stages of preparation.

One way that this course was a rebuke to me was that if I am honest I was dismayed there were fifteen steps. I was hoping for five! But this was a rebuke for me because one of the reasons that I wanted to do this course is that I am convinced that God works by spirit through the teaching of His word and that I believe 1 Timothy 3:16 to be true. Also James 3:1 say that those who teach will be judged differently. God places a priority on us teaching the bible well.

If I believe these things then I should be willing to do the hard work of understanding and applying the bible well. And that isn't going to be achieved by cutting corners in preparation. In my defense it is not that I had stopped believing these things; rather that I had let myself fall into the trap of saying yes to talks that I didn't have enough time to prepare for adequately so wanted a quick way of churning out sermons where as I should have learnt to say yes to less.

Please don't take any of this to mean that I think that understanding and applying the bible is only possible for or only the task of those who "officially" teach or have been "officially" taught. I am simply talking about some things that I have learnt and been reminded of in my pursuit of handling the bible well.