[These are notes from the Q&A Panel on Day 1 of the Preach The Word 2013 Acts 29 West Regional Conference in Reno, NV]
Participants: Harvey Turner, Justin Holcomb, Alex Early, and Leonce Crump
How do you go about exegeting an entire book of the Bible prior to a series to help in the long run of it?
-Always start with the bible, not commentaries (never go to a commentary for answers but confirmation)
-Find the major themes that are being communicated
-First, identify the major narratives (and how can they see it?)
-Follow with the secondary themes (with those themes, many other themes/topics are communicated)
-Break the book down in chunks (don’t limit it to the headings given to you; those were not initially present)
Identify significant transition words, new thoughts, etc. (then fill in from there) (ie “therefore”)
-For longer books, break it up into series’ (1 Cor and John 4 examples were provided)
Another perspective on it: Write up a summary of the book of the bible and its major themes (1-2 page; these become a resource that can be built up over time) and then write longer chunks (multiple pages, going into more explicit and implicit details of the texts and direction of the series) as a tool the rest of the life of your ministry.
Do you still have time for your family in applying the sort of missional lifestyles Alex talked about? (see Session 2)
~Alex Early: the nature of ministry is service and inconvenience is normal; however, it’s not my responsibility to put out every fire. [It’s important to invest in ministry but your family is still a priority]
**Train up (mentor) someone and equip them as you are living missionally (builds a crew around you, trains them, etc.)
“[It also helps that] my wife loves lost people and she wants to see lost people meet Jesus as badly as I do” (expect the inconsistencies but set time to be with her)
Why is it so important to order it Law (then) Gospel?
Justin Holcomb: The logical priority of the law drives us to a need of the Gospel
-The proper distinction (of law and Gospel) is crucial.
“The Gospel is the announcement of what Jesus has done on our behalf; not ‘love God and love your neighbor’ (that’s law)”
-Leonce Crump: “effective communication is anchored in a proper tension of the law (everyone wants to be a good person and falls short)” // When you rightly set the tension (that all want to be good and can’t be), the Gospel becomes a relieving balm.
Tension as seeing “I don’t (can’t) do that” [when they see they can’t, you’ve established their need for something/someOne who can]
If you don’t address the tension “Love God and Love your neighbor” is in danger of remaining “well I hate my neighbor and I don’t believe God is real” for them
-Justin Holcomb: “The Gospel is not therapy (Law) but it’s certainly therapeutic (Gospel)”
Do you modify your message based on the size you’re preaching to, phase of the plant/church, etc.?
-Harvey Turner: “some people plant churches to have a crowd to preach to.”
“Planting a church is having a community of people centered around the Gospel living on mission”
-Leonce Crump: I say it also varies week to week (strategy/approach) who’s in the room? What does the text dictate? What are you trying to accomplish?
—“If our set list is full of Hillsong, I’ll preach harder because I’m then the only tie to our African American congregants; if we’re more gospel heavy in our setlist I will be more conversational”— (intentional ties in music&preaching)
It the same with types of messages: Joyful should be read joyfully. Heavy messages (like Hosea) shouldn’t have jokes
-Harvey Turner: in church life there is a lot of idealism and because of that we need to be present with those in front of us.
-Alex Early: “I think of it this way: (this people group) shouldn’t determine my content” [relate it to who’s there, but don’t focus so much on catering to them that you tweak the message and miss/soften the point]
Here’s what’s safe in any size church: Jesus. He’s confrontational and comforting. Then if they leave your church they aren’t leaving you but Jesus.
“Your city is different than everyone else’s. know that context”
(Come and see; go and die sermons // match it to the various seasons in your church)
“Also constantly be asking yourself: What does our city need?”
How do you mobilize a church on mission in an urban/inner city context?
-Harvey Turner: Know that there will always be needs (“the poor you will always have with you”), but you can meet some needs. And as you do, use those opportunities as opportunities for the Gospel (See Titus: “our good deeds adorn the Gospel”)
-Alex Early: Go to the city’s events (utilize the people present to help on the front end; it doesn’t take a massive financial push or creative event; it’s likely already happening)
-it’s not the church leadership’s responsibility to think up every thing to help. It should motivate our people to do it too.
[Member to Pastor] “This (problem/issue) is going on here.” –> [Pastor to Member] “it sounds like God just called YOU.”
(Context: the person who asked the question lives in a “gentrified paradise in the middle of a hell-hole”)
-Leonce Crump: It goes back to being able to answer “Who is my neighbor?” (do they consider that gang member their neighbor, or the ‘other’?)
Secondly, equip groups there to be the frontlines in that particular context (be an outward-facing family not inward)
[[So 1) premise (who’s my neighbor) 2) posture (outward focus)]]
-Equip them to have sane conversations with people unlike them. (We are comfortable having friends exactly like us and we are so insulated; break that up)
When you do that you won’t have to seek out need, the needs will find you.
And when you can’t meet it, partner with others to join resources/effort to combat what you can
-1) premise (above)
-2) posture (above)
-3) people (know the people and their needs)
-Platform (give them servants)
“In the last 20 years gentrification has been equated with transformation; it’s not the same.” construction development is not gospel helpfulness.
-Justin Holcomb: what happens when the church sees non-Christians showing up? –> take the lead on a few symbolic fronts to represent what it looks like (just start helping SOMETHING and others will likely rally around it)
_•This involves both inviting non Christians in and inviting Christians OUT•_
What do you do to evaluate your preaching?
-Ask my wife (not for critique but helpful contribution/feedback)
“My wife’s voice sounds a lot like the Holy Spirit”
-Harvey Turner: “occasionally I listen to my own sermon and I realize that I’m not as good as I thought I was”
-Don’t be too hard on yourself either; Jesus saves even with your not so good sermons
-Justin Holcomb: God will use segues, unplanned lines, etc. and that gives me a freedom (still study and such but know that God will use it)
-have people around you that know your temptations (self absorption? Introspection?)
-know who you’re asking (they’re a tool that will mold you using your gifts)
-Harvey Turner: Ask guys who preach well to critique your sermons (ask them to be blunt and know that it’ll sting)
-“It is great that you are evaluating your preaching; many don’t”
-Leonce Crump: On the prevention side, stay ahead of the game (prepare ahead of time)
Always be a couple weeks ahead (put together a substantiative outline)
–Prepare in community (have a counsel of people who can edit through and provide many insights to it)
[[Maybe not significant to the edification of this conversation but I wanted to include this anyways.. they got on the topic of hating listening to themselves and how awkward it is to hear what you sound like and watching themselves to see what they look like, how they move, what hand motions they do, etc.]] —
-Leonce Crump: “I’ve just decided that I sound like a hungry bear”
-Alex Early: “With red pants!”
-Justin Holcomb: “It’s okay, I sound like Kermit the frog”
-Leonce Crump: [regarding the motions he does] “I’d thread the needle and then follow it with a chop” (sew and chop)
-Happy hands, birthing the child, sew and chop
-Baptist preacher stop
[[back on track]]
-Justin Holcomb: Steward the pulpit (he realized the seriousness of it)
Never underestimate the necessity of practice them your sermons (if a world-class speaker can practice his sermons multiple times every time, I can too)