|A RATIONALE FOR WORKSHOPS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION
About halfway through the twentieth century, H. Richard Niebuhr set out to study theological education in America. In designing his study, one of his first steps was to observe the product of theological education: the American pastorate. He concluded that “perplexity and vagueness continue to afflict thought about the ministry.” The effects of this ambiguity are disastrous. Niebuhr writes:
The minister who knows what he is doing, they say, is able to resist the many pressures to which he is subject from lay groups in the churches, from the society, from denominational headquarters, and from within himself, however hard he must fight to keep his ship on its course; but the man who has no such determinative principle falls victim to the forces of all the winds and waves that strike upon him. There may be a connection also between indefiniteness in the sense of vocation and the fact that sloth or ‘downright laziness’ is often mentioned by ministers as a reason for failure in the ministry. Doubtless a significant temptation to sloth or ‘accidie’—as this vice was called in older days—is to be found in the frustration a man experiences when he has no clear sense of his duties and no specific standard by means of which to judge himself (H. Richard Niebuhr, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry, Harper Books, 1954, 54).
The second half of the twentieth century only serves to corroborate Niebuhr’s conclusion. An astonishing number of pastors are "frustrated." According to some widely publicized statistics (published in Pastors at Greater Risk by H.B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman, Regal Books, 2003):
—1,500 leave ministry each month because of “moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches”
—more than 50% practicing ministers would leave if they had another viable way of making a living
—more than 90% feel under-qualified to work in full-time ministry
The most startling and, in some ways, upsetting results of the studies mentioned above is the how pastors claim to spend their time.
—80% of pastors surveyed spend less than 15 minutes per day praying
—70% claim they only spend time studying the Bible if they must preach it
We believe that this ambiguity has gone on long enough. We intend to return working pastors to their central calling—the faithful, weekly exposition of God’s Word. Our primary means for accomplishing this task is through our Workshops on Biblical Exposition.
The mission of the Workshops is four-fold. First, for expository preaching to take hold of a preacher and subsequently edify and evangelize his congregation, he must be confident in setting to the task. We must convince the pastor that the heart of pastoral ministry is the proclamation of the Word. Second, as he is convinced he must also grow in his confidence to practice expository preaching. We must encourage him in his own life-long ministry and his soul by ministering to him from the Word. Third, as he is encouraged, he must also be given the tools to apply specific principles such that he both understands and is equipped for true expository preaching. We must show him to rightly handle the Word of God. Finally, showing him how to faithfully exegete the text assumes a common understanding of the fullness of the Biblical framework, a comprehensive understanding of the big picture of the Scriptures and the Christological (or Biblical Theological) promise/fulfillment pattern contained within. We must reveal to him the geography of the Text. And that is what the preaching workshops do.