I wanted to share with you a few of my thoughts about what stood out to me about the week, mostly because I don’t want to forget what I picked up in the main sessions and the seminars.
The week’s theme was Unveiled: The Surprising Plan of God in Revelation, which meant the each of the sermons during the main sessions were taking from the book of Revelation. I thought each of the sermons were excellent, but rather than bore us with the details I have placed the seven sermons into 2 groups.
The first group contains the first three sermons. These were preached by Dr. Robert Lowery from Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, IL; Jim Johnson from Sunnybrook Christian Church in Stillwater, OK, and Doug Welch from OCC. What stood out to me from these three sermons was the emphasis on knowing the Old Testament so we can have a proper context for understanding Revelation. In fact this is true for the New Testament in general, since there are so many echoes from the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament. We tend to forget that from the first century Christian their Bible was the Old Testament.
That means the second group consists of the final four sermons. These sermons were preached by Jeff Walling from Providence Road Church of Christ in Charlotte, NC; Dick Alexander from Life Spring Christian Church in Cincinnati, OH; Ben Cachiara from Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, MD, and Kenny Boles from OCC. What stood out to me from these four sermons is the power of a good illustration, especially visual illustrations. I am not talking about video clips, but illustrations that use an object or an image to make the point. Jeff Walling, whose sermon I think was the best of the week, had two great ones. One involved audience participation and the other was peeling an orange. These guys reminded me how important it is to spend time to come up with illustrations which will stick in the minds of the audience.
The first seminar I went to was entitled You Can Write, which was taught by a retired professor from Ozark Christian College, Lynn Gardner. The two things that he emphasized that stood out to me, and that I need to remember are: (1) outline and (2) rewrite. While I outline my sermons, all the other writing I do is what ever comes out when I sit down to write. I will have an idea, but I rarely is that idea developed. It is not uncommon for me to finish writing a blog post and think; “That is not where I intended to go with this.” While this make writing an adventure it also makes it frustrating. I have so many “unfinished ideas” saved on my computer because I started out, but a couple of paragraphs in I gave up because I couldn’t make things work. I need to treat all more of my writing like I treat writing a sermon. I also need to be encouraged to rewrite. I get so frustrated by all the mistakes in my writing that I hate to re-read them, but there is no reason why I should expect perfection my first time through, especially given the fact that I am developing the idea as I write.
The second seminar I went to was my least favorite part of the week. It was How to Rekindle the Passion for Apologetics taught by Andrew Kirschner, professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at OCC. I will give him credit from being passionate about the topic, it is evident that is a great love for him. Part of the reason I did not enjoy this one was because I had a terrible headache, which made concentrating very difficult, and that is where I will leave it.
The third seminar I attended was entitled Taking Them to Heaven Every Sunday taught by a man I have tremendous amount of respect for, Dr. Mark Scott from OCC. Two things that stood out from what Dr. Scott said. First, we need to talk about heaven so people can have a real hope. This stood out to me because heaven didn’t really appeal to me until I read N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope last fall and began to understand what the Bible taught about heaven. It helped make it real, and I know that if I struggled with understanding heaven and God’s plan then the average person in the pew is having trouble with it as well. Preachers and teachers need to take advantage of opportunities to talk about heaven and provide people with a glimpse of what it will be like. The second thing is that as Church leaders we need to help our Church Families to become colonies of heaven here on earth. In other words we need to encourage and nurture Kingdom values in our Churches that make us places of refuge from the rest of the world.
The fourth and final seminar that I attended was entitled Improving Your Preaching by Improving Your Writing, which was taught by Dru Ashwell who is Executive Editor at College Press Publishing. The big thing I took away from this was that I need to fall in love with words. I don’t put much thought into the words I use, and I think I could benefit, in both my writing and preaching, by taking some time and not only contemplating the best word to use, but also to construct good sentences and phrases.
Well, that covers the week, and if you made it this far you are to be commended. I admit I wrote this more for my benefit than for yours. I wanted to jot down a few of my thoughts from last week before they left my mind. Though I would encourage you to attend next year’s Preaching and Teaching Convention, as I said before I don’t know if there is a better convention for your money. At the very least it would give you the opportunity to take me out for supper, and I am always up for free food.