2011 Syllabus Interpreting Scripture Through Preaching

2011 Syllabus
Interpreting Scripture Through Preaching
To teach beginning preachers an effective process for preparing sermons and tools
for delivering them, and to lay the groundwork for further study and growth.
We will be covering these and other topics related to preaching.
Choosing and studying scripture
Choosing a theme or image to focus the message
Knowing what you want the sermon to accomplish
Using resources effectively and ethically
Planning and writing a message that connects with the head and the heart
Several sermon styles you can try
How to use stories and tell them better
Introductions and Conclusions
Manuscripts, outlines, and preaching without notes
Gestures, eye contact, and other mechanics
Other issues you bring
Required Books:
Guthrie, Clifton F., From Pew to Pulpit: A Beginner's Guide to Preaching.
Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2005.
Long, Thomas G., The Witness of Preaching: Second Edition. Louisville, KY:
Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
From Pew to Pulpit is required for use by all License schools. It is designed for people
with little or no experience with preaching as a sort of “jump start.” You may want to
read through this book quickly to get used to the idea that people who preach regularly
need a way to structure their preparation time. It also suggests a number of ways that
your experience as a “listener to” sermons will help you as a “writer/preacher of”
sermons. The opening chapters may be especially helpful if you have a lot of anxiety
about preaching. It was not, however, really intended for people who will be serving as
clergy in local churches, preaching sermons week-in and week-out. In the introduction,
Clifton Guthrie writes, “There are many excellent preaching textbooks out there that can
guide you in the intricacies of biblical exegesis, sermon development and delivery
technques” (Guthrie, p. xi). Since those are precisely the skills you need to learn, Dean
Powers and I have agreed that we should use a book that will prepare you better for the
next level of education, be that Course of Study or traditional Seminary, but more
importantly will prepare you to be a more effective Witness to God’s Word for the people
to whom you are sent. For that, we will spend most of our time using the excellent
textbook for introductory preaching: Thomas Long’s The Witness of Preaching. We
won’t have time to cover everything in this book, but it is my hope that you will become
familiar enough with it that you will continue to pull it off your shelf and benefit for
years to come.
Assignments with a Purpose:
Preparing sermons is a combination of hard work and fun. Many good preachers
invest as much as an hour in the study for every minute in the pulpit. This course is
designed to help you learn the discipline that produces Biblically sound, engaging
sermons that make a difference in the lives of the people who hear you week after
week. As an additional benefit, I’ve based the assignments on scripture that comes
up in the Revised Common Lectionary this Fall. I hope you’ll be able to use almost
everything you do for this class almost immediately in your real ministry.
Your work should show evidence that you made an honest effort to engage the
reading and follow the process laid out there. If this kind of preparation is new to
you, parts of it may be challenging. Do your best, and in class, we will work to
understand everything more fully.
Keep a copy of all assignments to bring with you to class. These assignments may
be used for in-class exercises. Assume that any of your work might be used as
illustration or for an in-class exercise (only to equip the saints and to build up the
kingdom, not to tear anyone down).
Due Friday, July 1st
You may send your work by email to ([email protected]) or by mail to my office
(Dr. Howard White, Wesley Foundation, 1203 W. Green Street, Urbana, IL 62801). If by
email, I will reply to let you know if I have been able to open your documents. I work
from a macintosh computer with the latest version of Pages (for word processing), but
you can send Word files. If you are using something else, we may want to do a test right
away, just to make sure we won’t have compatibility problems that would prevent me
from getting your work on time.
Assignment One
Step One:
Choose one of the following scripture passages which you will use to complete all
the steps in Assignment One.
Matthew 14: 22 - 33
Matthew 15: 21 - 28
Matthew 16: 13 - 20
Matthew 18: 15 - 20
Romans 12: 1 - 8
Romans 13: 8 - 14
Exodus 3: 1 - 15
Step Two:
Read the process for Biblical Exegesis for Preaching described in chapter three of
Thomas Long’s The Witness of Preaching: Second Edition all the way through. Then
go back and work through the steps using the scripture you chose in step one. By
answering the following questions, you will show me that you worked through this
process. (You will also be well on your way to having a sermon written) It is a way
of studying the Bible that can bring to the surface issues and material for preaching.
Use resources readily available to you, including books for other classes, online
resources, etc. (Guthrie has a “preacher’s toolbox” available at
www.pewtopulpit.com) Beware of Long’s warning not to go to commentaries too
soon in the process. Working hard on exegesis will make the remaining steps of
preparing a sermon much easier. In most cases, a few sentences will constitute an
acceptable response. Print the question before your answer.
What attracted you to this scripture? What are the benefits of using a lectionary?
What are some possible shortcomings of lectionaries?
What did you learn by reconsidering where the text should begin or end? What is
the purpose of reconsidering the beginning and ending points of readings?
What did you learn by comparing translations of the text? What kinds of things
should preachers look for when they compare translations?
Give an example of a simple question a person should ask of your text in order to
gain a basic understanding. (See page 78 for examples.)
What is the larger context of your text? What does this mean for interpretation?
Print or photocopy all of the questions you came up with in this step. (There
should be quite a few.) Try at least two of the suggestions on pages 84 – 88 and
write a short paragraph about what you learned from doing this.
What did you learn from gathering historical information?
What kind of literature is the text? (poetry, history, narrative, parable, proverb,
Name one Theological issue the text deals with.
Name one thing that became clearer for you or that you discovered by consulting
Finish the sentence on page 98.
Step Three
Make sure you have read chapter four of Long’s The Witness of Preaching. Write
a focus statement and a function statement as described there. Each should be no
more than one sentence. A focus statement says, “this is what this sermon will be
about.” A function statement says, “this is what this sermon will try to do.” Test
your statements by asking, “Do they grow directly from my study of the text?,”
“Do they relate to one another?,” and “Are they clear, unified, and relatively
simple?” If you are having trouble with this step, you may find it helpful to read
Clifton Guthrie’s sections “Write Down a Main Idea” (pp. 62 - 64) and “”Write
the Purpose Statement” (pp. 64 - 68). These are similar to focus and function
Step Four
In about one page, describe the form you would use for a sermon on this scripture
(feel free to be creative). Chapters 5 and 6 of The Witness of Preaching go into
detail about form. From Pew To Pulpit gives brief explanations of several
different types of sermons you might want to try in chapter 7. You may do this in
a somewhat detailed outline or narrative, or a combination of each. One sentence
will not be sufficient. I want to have a pretty good idea what you are going to say
and how you are going to say it.
Step Five
In the previous step, you indicated how the sermon would begin and end. In this
step, I would like you to write out the introduction and the conclusion you would
use for this sermon.
Assignment Two
Write one paragraph giving your opinion about whether or not it is appropriate for a
preacher to use illustrative material from their own life. (This issue is discussed on
pages 220 – 221 in The Witness of Preaching).
Assignment Three
Choose one issue from chapter 10 of The Witness of Preaching and give your own
view on the subject in one paragraph. Please state the issue as a heading and then
give your response.
To be completed at school:
The most important assignment will be writing and preaching a sermon for faculty
and student evaluators. The sermon must adhere to the guidelines announced on
the first day of class.
Course Overview:
Session One: Who is the preacher?
Session Two: Choosing Scripture and Biblical Exegesis for Preaching
Session Three: The Focus and Function of a Sermon
Session Four: Sermon Forms – a revolution in process
Session Five: The Mechanics of Preaching
Session Six: Introductions, Connections and Conclusions
Session Seven: Bringing stories to life.
Session Eight: Preaching as a team sport
Session Nine: Electronic and Print resources: overview, ethics and traps
Session Ten: Next steps, and collecting the fragments.
Grades will be Pass or Fail, with Pass+ reserved for truly exceptional efforts.
Passing will require completing the assigned work, class participation, and preaching
a sermon which meets the school requirements. You must pass this course in order
to successfully complete License school.
Dr. Howard White
Senior Pastor/Director
Wesley United Methodist Church and Foundation at the University of
1203 W. Green St.
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 344-1120
[email protected]