Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reflections on preaching

I preached my third sermon in Spanish today (on Deut 6:24-25 and 2 Peter 1:1-11 for the record).

Preaching in another language, especially a language which you are still very much a beginner in is a difficult process. For me, I do my usual work on the passage, work out a main point, application etc from which I construct my sermon outline. Then, I write the full text in English and make sure it makes reasonable sense. Then the fun really begins.

I then translate the sermon into Spanish - the dictionary and and verb book get a good workout, practicing pronunciation along the way. I then deliver the sermon, paragraph by paragraph to Lillian, our Spanish tutor who gently, but firmly takes the red pen to it. She points our grammatical errors, helps with with idioms that I might have missed and generally gives it some sense. In my first sermon I think my correction average was about 5 per sentence, but now I am down to about 2 I think.

That correction process will take a couple of hours.

Then, after all that, I need to do some practice - so I can speak the words clearly, with a reasonable accent, acceptable intonation and timing, and even the odd pause or emphasis.

And so, Sunday morning comes and I deliver the thing. I think it goes alright.

So here's the reflection. When I preach in English, I write and use a full text, but I don't need to use it all that much. I know the material, I know how I want to say it and so I do. I can have a lot more eye contact with the people I am speaking to and hence get a much better feel for how people are responding.

But in Spanish - things are so much different, and difficult. I'm so busy concentrating on the words, and what comes next and taking notice of the pronunciation notes I've made, that I hardly have time to look up from my notes. Someone could be having a heart attack in the second row (they actually sit in the second row here) and I might not notice!

And as for having a question or comment time - something I used to love back home - forget it! I am so exhausted by the time I've finished I couldn't put an answer together - and that is assuming that I can understand the question (which I usually can't).

I'm hopeful that in a couple of years I might look back on this and think 'Ah yes - I remember those days' - in a fond kind of 'do you remember that camping trip we went on and it rained the whole time and it was horrible' sort of way. But right now, well, the camping trip is well under way!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The value of solid teaching

For many of you, solid and understandable Bible teaching is a meat and potatoes kind of thing. You have it, its normal, its good for you and it keeps you going. But, its kind of dull - in an inoffensive dull kind of way.

If that is you - can I encourage you to reconsider.

Largely because of the language barrier, meat and potatoes Bible teaching has been missing from our diet for the last 15 months. (Yes, we listen to mp3s, but its not the same). We miss sitting with people and discussing a passage in Bible study. We miss hearing the word expounded to us systematically and carefully and in a way which challenges.

One of the things that has made me realise how much I miss this was that last weekend we went to Dallas for what was basically a church weekend away. It was a small church (50 people or so) but they are committed to careful preaching, and so run a little conference each year. The speaker was excellent, the talks were careful and brilliant and the fellowship outstanding.

We did a round trip of 2100km for the joy of it - and it was worth it.

So - can I invite you dear reader, if you are in a situation where the preaching is meat and potatoes, and Bible study seems like a bit of a grind because 'we just keep reading the Bible' to not feel like it is boring or unimportant and therefore look for something more 'important' or a 'magic bullet'. Keep going, keep working, keep listening and growing - its the way God grows his church and his people.

If it feels to difficult to go to Bible study after work - please reconsider. Its an opportunity to serve and an opportunity not to be missed. If the drive to church feels a bit long, I reckon its not. If you feel like your programs at church need a bit of a spark - fair enough, but don't look for some magical technological fireworks - look for solid food in the taught word.