Spring Training

Charles Simeon (1759-1836)

I attended my first Workshop on Biblical Exposition by The Charles Simeon Trust at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Center City Philadelphia last week. I had known about the Trust’s work for some time now and I had wanted to attend a workshop but calendars, location and available funds never seemed to match up. This year it did.

As I understood it the Trust set a particular Bible book and resulting biblical genre for the focus of study. About several weeks before the workshop two texts are assigned to you for your analysis that you will present in a workshop of 8 bible expositors. Since this year’s title is Promises Fulfilled, Glory Revealed in the Book of Exodus, my two texts were Exodus 12.1-13  (preparations for Passover)  and Exodus 37.1-9 (construction of the ark of covenant). Our instructors were David Helm, lead pastor of the Hyde Park congregation of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago and Chair of the Trust and Trent Hunter, pastor for administration and teaching at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. Liam Golligher, senior minister at Tenth, also joined us to preach a sermon at the end of the second day on Exodus 24.1-8.

The structure of the 2.5 day workshop was divided between six whole group lecture and questions, four small workshop sessions and three expository sermons that ministered to the participants. The first two days began promptly at 8:30am and ended by 4:30, the final day ending at 12:30pm.

Each of the whole group lectures reviewed the basics skills of expository sermon preparation. Likened to Spring Training in baseball where each player no matter how experienced or skilled, reviews and exercises in the basic skills of the game:

  1. From Study to Sermon: a general introduction to the work of biblical exposition to final sermon that included five essential required to keep the necessary tension of getting the exposition correct and getting it across to the congregation.
  2. The Melodic Line: We must understand what the whole book is about if we aim to understand a specific text.
  3. Structure: Every text has a structure. This structure will reveal an emphasis. The emphasis must shape our message.
  4. Typology and Analogy: If we are to teach the Bible as Christians, we must show the legitimate connections from our text to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  5. Text and Framework: We must let the Bible shape our frameworks (political, theological, situational) rather than letting our frameworks shape our interpretation of the Bible.
  6. Staying on the Line: We must stay on the line of Scripture, never straying above it or below it.

The close study of your texts for the smaller workshop sessions we assisted by a template that asked a series of questions to you as you gathered your analysis. In the smaller workshop, you were given five minutes to present followed by a first responder from your group to cross-examine you on a point or points of your analysis before being opened up to the whole group for further discussion. With the basic principles fresh in your mind from the lectures and anticipated by the template, every discussion was lively and fascinating as expositors committed to the Scriptures supported each other in the discussion.

The capstone of the day were the sermons preached at the end of the day from a text in Exodus. Liam Golligher’s Exodus 24 sermon gave me a deeper point of engagement in my presentation of Exodus 37 the next day. What seemed a simple exercise in my study two weeks previously became a living example of the Holy Spirit working through the Scriptures.

Introducing myself as an Anglican on the first day and discovering yet again I was the only one in the room, I was surprised when David Helm welcomed me directly in a break. He shared with me a bit about himself and the Trust that was very encouraging to me as an Anglican – aside from the Trust’s namesake in Charles Simeon! He told me that among his own influences that shaped him as an expository preacher were the great evangelical preaching tradition in the Church of England and that the inspiration for the Trust’s founding was in the work of Dick Lucas‘ Proclamation Trust in England. Far from being an “outsider” I discovered that this world is my Anglican world.

Tenth Presbyterian did a wonderful job looking after us and the camaraderie among the expositors was great. I discovered that many had come multiple years. Upon further reflection, I think I will join them. The Charles Simeon Trust Workshop, along with the Banner of Truth’s Minster’s Conference, are my two must not miss events of my year.

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