Tuesday, March 19, 2019

5 Questions on Study (and a look at my study practices in ministry)

Recently, I was interviewed by Christian minister and theologian Scott Elliot for his "5 Questions" series. My topic was why study is important to Christians. Here's a breakdown of my comments:

What does your daily routine look like?

I have a fairly disciplined routine for M-F. I get up early, 5 a.m., have a devotional, go to the gym, then jump into my study for the day. I devote the morning time until lunch to study and reserve the afternoons for “people” stuff. The best part of the day for me is the morning time and after lunch for appointments, staff meetings, counseling, and administrative tasks.

I think the best advice I can give to someone is to remember that there are really no time-saving tricks, so, start your study early in the week and say no to other pressures. The morning time is the most effective for study and in my opinion, one hour in the morning is worth three hours in the afternoon. I do my sermon writing on Monday, which is quite effective for me.

2) What are some essential tools for study?

I use a combination of books and Bible software for my study and lesson and sermon preparation. For my sermon preparation I use a Bible in the original language (moderate use), English study Bibles, commentaries, a systematic theology and some Bible and theological dictionaries. That’s all basic and pretty consistent from week to week. In terms of commentaries I use the Reformed Expository Commentaries, NIVAC, the MacArthur New Testament Commentaries, Hendriksen and Kistemaker Commentaries, the Dictionary of Theological Terms (Alan Cairns), the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Walter Elwell, editor), and the New Dictionary of Theology (David Wright, Sinclair Ferguson).

What does my workspace look like when I am prepping? I have a desk at my study at the church building. All of the books I use are on my desk with the exception of commentaries which are in my Logos Bible Software. Additional and occasional books I need along with all the study Bibles are on a roller library cart next to my desk where I can grab them quickly.

In terms of my sermon-prep routine, I read the text several times, write it on a notepad, mark it up, and figure out how to outline it. I am an expository preacher, which means I take the main point of the text as the point of my sermon. When I read and study I am trying to capture the dominant idea of the text.

Once I outline it, I try to put it into a homiletical outline so I can preach it in an organized way, I will study the original language just to sharpen that skill so I don’t lose it. I will read the commentaries, the dictionaries and systematic theology. I will write the explanation, the application, the introduction, and draft the conclusion. The average numbers of prep hours per sermon for me is about ten to twelve hours total.

3) Is study just for ministers, theologians, and teachers? If not, why?

I believe study is for everyone, but obviously you will need to put in more hours of study if you are a theologian, and one would need plenty of study if they are a minister, and of course some study if you are a teacher. Alot of how much study you can put in will be dictated by your schedule, whether you are as a minister supported financially full-time, etc. 

4) What advice would you give to a young minister about developing good study habits?

I would recommend determining a study schedule and then put it on his calendar like an appointment and don’t schedule anything else in that time frame. I mean, literally put it on your calendar so if someone asks you for an appointment at that time, you can open your calendar and say, “Oh, I can’t at that time but I can at this time, etc.”

I would also recommend that a minister early on figure out what his go-to tools are - books, commentaries, etc. - and put them within arms’ reach.

Early on, a young minister should figure out what he believes about the doctrine of God and the doctrine of scripture. These doctrines will inform everything else he does.

5) In what ways has study blessed your life and your ministry?

The joy in learning more about God’s word and understanding God more deeply. That is the main reason for my joy and why I love to study.

Study has blessed me because I am never unsure what I am preaching or teaching from week to week.