By Johnie Edwards
Several churches have asked what we do in a Preacher Training Program. The Preacher Training Program of the Ellettsville, Indiana church of Christ is, first of all a very practical program with emphasis on studying and teaching the Bible effectively.
We try to provide the men in the Preacher Training Program with some good tools ‘with which to work. The wise man stated, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Our thinking, to a great extent, is prompted by what we read. Too many preachers are reading the writings of liberals and other men who have little or no respect for the Bible.
First, we insist that the young men read the Bible every day. They are provided with a “reading calendar” to help them read through the entire Bible during the year. All of us in the program read 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus every week, as these books say a lot of useful things about preaching the word.
Many of the books of Foy E. Wallace, Jr. are assigned to be read, outlined and then preached. Outside the Bible, there is no finer material for a young preacher to read than brother Wallace’s Bulwarks Of The Faith and God’s Prophetic Word.
Guardian of Truth magazine is given to each man in the program and he is encouraged to read and file a number of articles from the magazine. During the course of the year, much good reading material is assigned to be read and discussed such as Walking By Faith and The New Testament Church by Roy Cogdill. A selection of debate books are recommended to be read and outlined too.
Finding and Outlining Sermons
A lot of young men have difficulty in finding and outlining sermons that they can preach. Each man in the program puts together two sermons each week and must be ready to preach any one of them as called upon. Our motto is “Be Ready.” Sermon ideas are everywhere! Each man keeps a “Sermon Ideas” folder and is urged to jot down any sermon idea he may see, even if it is in the middle of the night! If not written down, it may never come again.
The preacher must be at his very best when he stands in the pulpit to preach God’s Word. Johnie Paul and I place a lot of emphasis on preaching sermons effectively. Every man is usually on his feet at every session, reading, preaching or teaching class material. The men are urged to go over, out loud, every sermon at least six times in front of a mirror, before preaching them in the class. Those who know me, know that I believe effective preaching need not take all day! I believe that the “head can receive no more than the seat can endure.” Most people do not listen very long at a time. The men are taught not to repeat everything but make their points and go on. We have a little motto in preaching: “Get up, speak up, shut up and sit down.”
Types of Sermons
There are many types of sermons one can preach. We spend time with all of them. We learn how to preach funeral sermons, do weddings, and preach in gospel meetings. We spend some time learning how to read effectively, as some come to us having not learned to observe good reading skills. We may even read an entire sermon out loud.
Building a Library
A good book list is provided each man and he is encouraged to begin buying some good books. Too many preachers buy a lot of “junk” that they never read. The members of the Ellettsville church have been very gracious in that they often, as individuals, provide the young men with a “matching fund” for their library needs. Good books are “tools of the trade” for preachers. Guardian of Truth Bookstore has been helpful in giving our young men a little discount on their books, and we thank them for that. The apostle Paul thought books were important as he told Timothy, “Bring the books . . .” (1 Tim. 4:13).
Preparing Class Material
There is a great demand for good class material. Every man in the study is taught how to put class material together on all kinds of Bible subjects and then be able to teach the material. Several weeks are spent each year on getting this work done. By the time a young man leaves the program, he has a good backlog, of not only sermons he can preach, but good quality class material that he is ready to teach.
Teaching Home Bible Studies
Each person is provided a copy of our “Home Bible Study” series and is taught how to teach these four simple lessons effectively. Every preacher needs to know how to conduct, and teach others how to conduct home studies. Home Bible studies is one of the most effective ways of converting folks today! We then go through a set of thirteen lessons on Growing in the Grace and Knowledge of the Lord. This study is designed to help ground the new convert. A study of this nature helps keep those we baptize (2 Pet. 3:18). By the way, the Home Bible Study and Growing in the Grace and Knowledge of the Lord ” can be purchased from Guardian of Truth Bookstore.
Bible History and Geography
We have added a new study to the 1994 program with a 52 week study of “Bible History and Geography” designed to help us appreciate places and times in relation to the Bible story. Each man is being provided a copy of The History and Geography of the Bible Story by Bob and Sandra Waldron.
We try to teach the men how to write well. Each one is encouraged to write articles for our church bulletin, news-paper articles, and even Guardian of Truth magazine. The writing of all kinds of letters is taught. Each one writes sympathy letters, notes of encouragement, letters to the sick and the like. Few preachers learn to write well and to the point.
An effective preacher is one with a good filing system, where he can find his material at a moment’s notice. We begin a simple effective filing system at the very first session every year. Johnie Paul and I give each man “tons” of material on all kinds of subjects that we have collected from a combined total of sixty years of study. These young men leave the program armed with material, that most men have spent a lifetime collecting.
Good grammar is necessary to be an effective speaker as a gospel preacher. We have young men who bring with them such expressions as “I seen” and the like. We go to work on that immediately. Bad grammar leaves the listeners wondering about the other abilities of the preacher. Beecher said, “A good speaker is a good man speaking well.”
A number of field trips are taken throughout the year. We visit places like the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois to help them appreciate Bible archeology. We also visit many of the restoration sites, such as Cane Ridge near Paris, Kentucky. These trips do much to help prepare the young men for preaching.
We stress that preachers need to keep themselves in good health, pay their bills, set good examples in their living, keep themselves pure, pray often, keep shoes shined, clothes neat and clean, be friendly, work hard, don’t gossip, and tend to your own business. Personal hygiene sometimes has to be stressed. We don’t mind telling a young man, “Nobody likes a stinking preacher!”
It is our hope that these ingredients will help these young men to be the best possible preachers that they can be.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 8, p. 3-4
April 21, 1994