Tag Archives: preaching
The next time you teach from Paul’s letters, first buy a copy of an excellent “5-star” rated book. I’m recommending James Ware’s Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English (Baker Academic, 2010) From here you can download an excerpt of the text and see its features.
- A thematic arrangement of all Pauline passages & accompanying parallels in Acts
- Left page: Greek text (following the Nestle-Aland Greek text);
- Right page: English text (NRSV)
Want to know the key passages where Paul discusses justification or his advice on dealing with governmental authorities or food offered to idols? Ware has arranged the materials for you in one handy volume, in just over 300 pages.
The book is easily worth the money (about $35 online) for the arrangement of every Pauline passage, according to 177 topics. You can move through the book topically, picking a topic that you find interesting or you can – as I most often do – begin with one passage and see immediately where else Paul has made similar statements.
Ware’s text is arranged topically by theological theme and main theological ideas. But, if you are looking for a text, not a topic, the table at the beginning of the book is easy to use and points you to the right place quickly.
Surprises abound almost every time I look up a passage for study. Ware puts – in one place – more passages to consider than I would have looked up. For example when I think of Paul’s view of the function of the law (topic 66) I often think of a few places in Romans (chapters 3 & 7) and Gal (chapters 2 & 3), but when I go to Topic 66 in Ware’s volume I’m immediately staring at the Greek and the English passages of all of Paul’s comments on the function of the law and I can immediately see that I would have missed some key parallels and I’ve underestimated the diversity of locations of this topic. Indeed, Paul comments on the function of the law in Romans 3.19-20; 4.15; 5.20; 7.5-25 and in 1 Corinthians 15.56-57; 2 Corinthians 3.7-9; Galatians 2.17-19; 3.19-25; and in 1 Timothy 1.8-11.
One word of caution applies to any book of this type: reading a verse (or two or twelve) extracted from its wider context in a chapter or book can be hazardous; so though you’ll find yourself turning to Ware’s book a lot, you’ll want to follow up with the wider context as you develop a sermon or lesson. As your hermeneutics professor taught: you won’t want to read the passages in isolation from their epistolary context.
Two minor quibbles worth mentioning (but not worth downgrading it from its 5-star rating): there is a subject index at the back, which seems a bit understated and thin on subjects. Even worse is a glossary that can best be described as an afterthought, a tease at just one page and 22 terms. It’s not clear why these 22 terms were chosen, but the glossary should be deleted or expanded tenfold.
Though some would want it in a digital version, the book is only available in hardcover format, and due to the side-by-side Greek-English pagination it would lose a bit of its utility if it was available as a digital text.
Next time you are going to study, teach or preach through some of Paul’s writings be sure to buy this book and mark it up. It will pay dividends for your teaching ministry from day one.
I spent the first few days of the week in Alexandria, LA for the E4 Preaching Conference. I had the privilege of presenting a workshop at this conference hosted by FBC Pineville and their pastor Stewart Holloway. Why travel halfway across the country to participate in a Preaching Conference? (My three year old had a particular problem with dad being gone for three days!) First, I love to help preachers hone their craft and I believe it is a part of the call God has placed on my life. Second, because a friend called and asked.
My friendship with Stewart developed when we both took graduate classes in communication at a secular university to prepare for doctoral work in preaching. We had taken classes together at seminary but not had many opportunities for interaction. I was pastoring a church and when I arrived on campus I enjoyed a few moments removed from the social spotlight. Consequently, I rarely went out of my way to develop relationships. However, when two seminary students showed up at a secular (and fairly liberal) university, we quickly discovered that there was strength in numbers. The class discussions typically took the form of political and moral debates and needless to say, we rarely had much support in our opinions.
Beyond the solidarity of like-minded beliefs, Stewart and I discovered that we were both actively seeking new ministry opportunities. Stewart had been an associate pastor for several years and was eager to move into pastoral ministry. I had been serving as a pastor in a wonderful country church for four years but I sensed that God was preparing me for something new. We spent several hours after those night classes talking about the joys and frustrations of following God’s call. We encouraged one another, prayed for one another and bonded with one another. In those post-class sessions, I discovered something that I largely missed in my MDiv training. I discovered the value of friends in ministry!
In answer to our prayers, God led me to a new church closer to seminary. Before I left, I went to the leadership of the church and told them that they didn’t need a search team. I told they needed to hire Stewart Holloway as their next pastor. The leadership heeded my advice. In one of the shortest search processes in Baptist history, they hired Stewart. He started within months and led the church effectively for years. (He became the longest tenured pastor in the church’s history!)
During that time we maintained our friendship as peers in the PhD program and occasional collaborators on sermon series. We provided sounding boards for one another. Most importantly, we listened to one another and encouraged one another. The journey of ministry can be quite challenging. It is even more challenging when we choose to make the journey alone. The journey of ministry is best traveled with friends!
Now Stewart is the pastor at FBC Pineville and I have the privilege of teaching at Anderson University. We don’t get to see each other as often as we like and busy schedules and growing families make phone calls and emails scarce. That is why I will travel to Louisiana to talk about preaching. I have a friend in Louisiana and friends in ministry are as valuable as gold.
Where are your friends in ministry? Don’t make the mistake I made in my MDiv days at seminary. Don’t overlook the people sitting around you. You never know when you might need a friend!