In this introduction to A Local Church Training Program for Potential Preachers (more of this to follow), Peter Adam explains what preaching is; why churches should be more intentional about training the next generation of preachers, and sets out some suggestions for a first training program.
What is Preaching?
‘The ministry of the word to the gathered congregation in expository biblical preaching that is passionate and applied.’
It is a ministry which aims to convert unbelievers, to mature believers, to mature the church, and to train the congregation in godliness and good ministry.
Its focus is God and Jesus Christ, it is based on the Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit of truth, it derives its message from those Scriptures, and it is culturally and pastorally contextualised and addressed to the congregation. It provides information, and also aims to engage the mind, heart, will, and actions of the people. It teaches, exhorts, and encourages a response.
Why Train Preachers?
- God has gifted some people in your church with gifts of preaching.
- Future preachers are among people in your church. So, run a ‘nursery for preachers’, to provide labourers for God’s harvest field in the present and also in the future, for Australia, and for overseas.
- You are praying that God will raise up gospel workers for his global harvest, and you are mentoring and encouraging and training those you think might be these workers in the future. This training program could be one way of achieving your wider goals.
- For many people who would be able to train for full time ministry of the word, in Australia or overseas, their main hesitation is that they feel very little confidence about public ministry, public speaking, and public Bible teaching and preaching. So a preaching course and small preaching opportunities can open doors for them, and help them gain in confidence.
- The first training and most influential preaching that future preachers receive will be in their church of origin. The minister of a church should be the main preacher and teacher, otherwise the church will lack edificatory direction and purpose: and public Bible teaching and preaching is at the heart of ordination. However, the minister will benefit from training other preachers and from forming a preaching team, and the church will benefit from having a range of trained preachers. This is a good investment in present and future ministry in the church.
- Even missionaries who go overseas to do medical or other work will need to be able to preach in the country to which they go, and when they return to Australia. They also need training.
- ‘How will they hear without a preacher?’ ‘The sower sows the word.’ ‘Make disciples of all nations, baptising them … and teaching them.’ ‘Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
A FIRST TRAINING PROGRAM
1. Preliminary to the First Training Program
You should remember the vitally influential role of the regular preaching in the local church in raising up future preachers. People will not want to preach unless they hear good preaching and are influenced by it, and see others being influenced by it. The strongest influence on preachers is the preaching that they hear and which influences them. This is the style of preaching they will naturally reproduce in their own preaching. You will help others if you preach well, and model good preaching. Potential preachers will be encouraged by good preaching, and discouraged by bad preaching.
People will not want to preach unless they hear good preaching and are influenced by it, and see others being influenced by it.
So you must ensure that the general preaching is of a high standard, and must include in the expectations of the outcomes of preaching that God will use it to raise up future preachers. Preachers should model good use of the Bible, for the benefit of the congregations’ own Bible reading, and also to train Bible study leaders and future preachers.
You should also have in place a general policy of training people to do any ministry you ask them to do. This should include basic discipleship, and training for those who teach young people, those who lead Bible studies or small groups, for evangelism, etc. There are many benefits from this, and one is foundational training for potential preachers.
- The selection of the right people is crucial for the training program.
You will be praying fervently that God will raise up workers for the church and for God’s global gospel plan, that God will give gifts to his church, and that the church will recognize and encourage those with gifts to use them to God’s glory. You might well ask church leaders for suggestions of people to invite to join the training program.
- You need to select those who will take part in the first training program.
The program might attract unsuitable people, who over-value public ministry, who think they can do a better job than the minister, or who want an opportunity to promote themselves or their ideas. You may select people by taking the initiative in approaching people, or by announcing that the training program is about to happen, and inviting expressions of interest. But you must finally make the decision to include or exclude people from the program.
- Those selected should show both Christian character and gifts.
- They must show maturity suitable to their age, or the opportunity to preach will damage them and others.
- They must have the desire to serve and use their gifts for the common good. This is more than wanting to show off their gifts, or only being willing to do things they are good at. It means a genuine desire to serve others, not themselves.
- They must have a track-record of having and using the gifts of understanding, teaching, and applying the Bible. This will include leading Bible studies, leading youth work that includes Bible teaching, evangelism that includes Bible teaching, etc. This means that they will have the gift of explaining things clearly, adapting their knowledge to the capacity of those who hear them, If they do not have these gifts and this track-record of effective ministry, then further training and ministry opportunity will be wasted.
- Their effective ministry of teaching others already is an essential pre-requisite, not least because it uses two of the gifts which preachers need: understanding the Bible, and applying it to people.
- Those selected should show potential for significant growth in the gifts of understanding, teaching, and applying the Bible.
It must be obvious that they have greater potential for ministry in the future, and this will mean that they are productive and fruitful in their present ministries of the word.
- Those selected and invited to join the first training program need to understand that doing the program does not ensure that they will subsequently be invited to preach.
If people are not willing to join the program on this condition, then they are unsuitable anyway.
2. The Program
The purpose of this training program is to teach people to expound and apply the Bible, that is, to do effective basic expository preaching. I have usually run twelve evenings, of 2 hours each. Sessions 1-5 are teaching, and in sessions 6-12 students preach their 10-minute sermons.
At the beginning of the training program, the students are allocated the passage of the sermon they will preach during the program. It is best to focus on one book of the Bible, and choose sequential passages from a short epistle, like 1 Peter, Colossians or Philippians. Epistles are easier, because the application is more explicit. If the group is more able, then a gospel or Old Testament book would be more useful.
The 10-minute sermons rule must be applied: for this teaches students to be disciplined, and trains them in the vital skill of focusing on the main point of the sermon, and discarding good material to enable this to happen.
Student also need to learn to benefit from feedback given to others’ sermons, and not to be so self-focused that they only concentrate on their own sermon.
These expectations should be made clear in the first session.
The first training program has a two-fold focus:
- To help people recognize the gifts, understanding, training and skills that they already have that they will use in preparing and preaching sermons.
- To help people learn the new skills that are needed to prepare and to preach.
This two-fold focus should be present in each of the 12 sessions.
There are suggestions for the content of the program below.
3. Launching the Preachers
- You will need to decide about who will be launched and who will not.
Those who will not be launched as preachers need to be affirmed in their present ministries. This is why it is good to set a 12 week program: at the end of it you can decide who should preach publicly and continue to be trained and mentored, and who should not.
- A new preacher should not preach a sermon in church without it being assessed and approved beforehand by the minister.
Difficult feedback should be given before the sermon is preached, not afterwards. And you have a duty to the congregation to maintain good preaching.
This includes three sessions with the preacher.
- One session two months before the sermon is preached where the new preacher presents the exegesis and application of the sermon in draft form.
- One session one month before the sermon is preached where the preacher produces the full text of the draft sermon.
- One session two weeks before the sermon is preached in which the new preacher preaches the sermon in the church in front of the minister.
Give feedback at each session.
- You may also find suitable less threatening contexts in which to launch preachers.
These include: preaching a sermon at a Bible study group; preaching at a small mid-week service; preaching at an aged care facility; giving a short address at the Youth group: giving a short address in a larger program of street evangelism; giving a short sermon at a church weekend, men’s weekend, women’s weekend, youth camp.
- The minister may plan a sermon series on a book of the Bible, and form a preaching team for that series, including some new preachers. The minister would preach 8 out of the 12 sermons, and new preachers one each. The team works together on the whole book together on the whole series, and then each new preacher preaches their sermon to the team before they preach it in church.
- You may be able to find opportunities for participants to preach in other churches nearby, or other ministry contexts which would welcome the ministry of new preachers.
- Two years after new preachers have been launched you should talk with them about the shape of their future ministry.
- You could ask several of those who have done the training program to help run the next program.
4. Some Resources
You may find good ideas about training preachers, and good material in Allan Chapple, Preaching: A Guidebook for Beginners, London, Latimer Trust.
Another good book is David Helm, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today, 9Marks, Building Healthy Churches.
(You could use either of the above as the textbook for your training program)
The Proclamation Trust in the UK has DVDs and other material available to train preachers. http://www.proctrust.org.uk
The Charles Simeon Trust in the USA also has plenty of good material. https://simeontrust.org/
Click here to access some further training material. In our next post from this series, Peter will present a twenty-five step outline for getting from the Bible to sermon