Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I Like Doing It the Hard Way

There are a lot of resources available for a pastor to use. There are sermon series with full sermons available to preach. There are pre-molded bible studies that you can pick up and use in an instant. There are confirmation materials that practically teach themselves. In theory, the pastor wouldn't even need to know the Word of God at all with everything that is available for pastors.

But I like doing it the "hard way". Concordia Publishing House (CPH) provides a bible study on each chapter of the bible, yet I am writing my own. That's not to say that I go it alone, or do not cherish some of the treasures that are available. For example, Rev. Peter Bender of the Concordia Catechetical Academy provides a great resource for catechesis. I use it to teach, but also supplement it (not that it needs much supplementing) with that of my own studies. CPH has produced a Lenten Sermon Series based on the Penitential Psalms. I am using their ideas, but I am not using their full written sermons. I will do things myself.

There are two reasons why I especially like to do this:

1) Learned in the Word of God. When I write a bible study, I am forced to study and know the text. I am forced to look at the Hebrew and Greek and read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it. With a prefabricated bible study, I am tempted not to study as much. The end result is a more knowledgeable pastor and more time spent in and throughout the Word of God. It becomes a blessing to me in that I grow in the knowledge of the Word and of Christ. But is also a blessing to my congregation for the more skilled I am with the Word of God, the more clearly they will hear Christ proclaimed to them.

2) Contextualization. When I write a bible study, I can tailor the study to the congregation. Hear me rightly, please. The truth of the Scriptures reaches across all times and all places, and as such needs no contextualization. However, because the Scripture comes to not simply to a man, but to "Bill the farmer, husband, father, school board representative, and U.S. citizen," the Scripture is spoken to him in his vocation. Thus, my bible study can be focus on the needs of the congregation as governed by where the Word of God leads. And, of course, this is a necessity when it comes to preaching.

On the other side, there are two reasons why this is burdensome:

1) Time. Writing a bible study is time consuming. Writing a sermon takes up a large portion of the week. Writing out individual bulletin inserts about the divine service (instead of purchasing them from CPH) takes more than a couple hours. It cuts into other things I could be doing - Shut-Ins could use more frequent visits, congregation members and less-frequent members could be visited, more time could be spent in other academic pursuits. The bottom line is that it takes extra time to do these things, and even more time to do them well. But in my opinion, it is time well spent.

2) My limited capacity. I am newly out of seminary. It is easy to get over ambitious in what I am trying to accomplish. Granted, I can do a lot, but there still room for improvement. Simply put, there are pastor who take a better approach at a certain study than I would have ever been able to conceive.

There are likely better ways than my ways. But my ways train me in the Word of God. It is time consuming and the struggle is great, but in the end it is for the benefit of all that I take this "hard way". It gets me and the congregation deeper into the Word and that is always a good thing.

+Kyrie Eleison+