It was a warm Friday evening in Philadelphia and people were streaming into the building. There was an excitement in the air. Most were dressed in their “Sunday Best” and had come with a spirit of expectation. Men and women of God were gathering together to learn about preaching and teaching. Bethel Deliverance Church was holding its annual Pastor’s and Preacher’s Workshop Weekend and we were privileged to provide the resource table for the attendees. Bishop Eric Lambert was the host and his team had done a great job in promoting the event as several hundred people from all over Delaware Valley were registered and arriving.
Scott and I set up our table in a prominent spot in the narthex of the church and looked forward to serving God’s servants. Bishop Keith Reid from Sharon Baptist Church was the keynote speaker on Friday night and gave a powerful talk from II Timothy on the primary role of the pastor as a preacher. He exhorted his brothers and sisters to be ready to preach the word “in season and out” and spent a significant portion of his time describing the importance and value of including reproving, rebuking and exhorting during a typical sermon. It was encouraging to hear his emphasis on being both balanced and thorough. Much of what he had to share was very practical like his advice not to preach out of anger at a few people in the church. Far too many pastors are prepared to rebuke the entire congregation for the sins of a small group of people that are occupying his time and energy.
On Saturday, Bishop Lambert taught a powerful session on the importance of preparation for preaching. He stressed the value of creating structure for the sermon, spending significant time in God’s word and keeping the message clear and simple. He had invited Dr. R. Todd Mangum, a professor from Biblical Theological Seminary to speak about Christ in the Old Testament and how to preach Christ in every sermon no matter where the passage was in the Bible. Following these sessions, they opened the floor for questions and answers and spent significant time addressing the varied concerns of the attendees.
One participant wanted to know how much education a preacher or teacher needed to be successful in ministry. This question was directed to Dr. Mangum and seemed to be a “softball” designed to give him an opportunity to promote seminary education. While he certainly gave an obligatory plug for BTS (Biblical Theological Seminary), he also recognized that seminary training was not practical, possible or necessary for every person in the room. Instead, he stressed the importance of personal study, getting whatever theological training that was practically available, such as attending classes at Bible Institutes and Bible Colleges and then determining if seminary training made sense.
As we began to help people during the breaks to find books that might be helpful in their ministry, it became clear that many people were taking Dr. Mangum’s advice seriously. While some were interested in books on practical aspects of pastoral ministry, many more were looking for resources to study God’s word and to be able to teach it more effectively. Bishop Lambert had touched on a key issue when he was promoting the idea of creating structure for a sermon and many people were hungry for resources that would help with that process.
Several years ago, our ministry had produced a resource that was ideally suited to this kind of need called the CLC Bible Companion. The book is a six-in-one reference guide to the Bible with particularly helpful concise outlines for every book of the Bible and great teaching on basic Bible doctrines. As I was describing the book to one person, it was not uncommon for several people to crowd around to hear what I was saying and discover the value of this book for themselves. While this book was designed with a third world pastor in mind who might have no access to Christian resources other than this book, it is also ideally suited to a bi-vocational pastor or teacher that is looking for one book to “jump start” their preaching. This book proved to be so popular that we had to get more stock from our nearby warehouse halfway through the day on Saturday to satisfy the demand.
At one point during the workshop, I was approached by a woman who I will call Mary. She confessed that she had not always been walking with the Lord, but had recently recommitted her life to Christ and just wanted to learn how to study God’s word once again before she ever considered teaching others. I was delighted to point out that we had included a free copy of our book, Blurry: Bringing Clarity to the Bible, in every attendee packet and that it was written for people just like herself. It was such a joy to see the hunger for learning and spiritual growth that was evident in the people with who we interacted. While it was clear that not every attendee would graduate from seminary one day, it was also clear why our ministry is so vital to those people in ministry who want to learn on their own and are prepared to “rightly divide the word of truth”.