Preachers need help. We need help from God, for the work of preaching is a work that depends on the invisible work of God’s Spirit in both the preacher and the people. Preaching is more than content and craftsmanship. But we also need help from one another, which includes help to think rightly about preaching encouragement to stay in it. Timothy received both from the Apostle Paul: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” (1Tim 4:15).
Help. That’s what we hope our annual preaching workshop offers to preachers in our region in partnership with The Charles Simeon Trust. From January 24–26 we were joined by 60 area preachers from 35 churches, including 30 lead pastors. Many names you would recognize, including Brad Baugham from Emmauel Bible Church and Abe Stratton from Bethany Baptist Church. Several preachers from churches in the neighborhood joined as well, including Marty Martin from Fellowship Presbyterian Church, Jim Wetterlund from Suber Road Baptist Church, and Mark Hatfield from Grace Baptist Church, Taylors.
Thank you for being a church that invests in these men and their congregations.
Let me introduce you to one brother in particular.
Trevor Hoffman is the Teaching Pastor at Ridgewood Greer. Trevor and I have a friendship going back six years now. He joined us last year for the first time and came back this year. He’s a gentle brother who leads his flock with tenacity about the church’s mission and patient endurance in its pursuit. Trevor was a small group apprentice leader for this year’s workshop. I’ve asked him to share about himself, his church, and the workshop we just hosted.
1. Trevor, thanks for joining us at the workshop this year. You are preaching and pastoring at Ridgewood Church in Greer. That’s a new name for your church in a new location. Tell us the story of your Ridgewood, a church on the move. Oh, and why did you say I pastor in “Fake Greer”?
That’s right! I planted The Church at Greer Station back in 2014. We’ve met in every nook or cranny we could find. It’s been difficult at times, but we’ve been sustained by an immovable God. In his kindness, he gave us a “fixer-upper” facility in 2020. We renovated, put down roots, and changed our name to Ridgewood Church in September of 2022.
I like to call people in your area—that no-man’s land at the nexus of Greer, Taylors, and Greenville—”fake Greer.” I know the post office gives you a Greer address, but you’re not in the beating heart of the Greer like I am!
2. This was your second workshop. Why did you come back and what was different this second time around?
I came back, frankly, because of how humbled I was by the first workshop. It can be a challenge to get good feedback on your preaching. My church was generally encouraged by my teaching, I wasn’t getting negative emails (all that often, at least), and the church was growing. I had found a rhythm and maybe allowed a little pride to take root.
But when you’re forced to present material to sharp, Bible-loving brother pastors, weaknesses in preparation and presentation are exposed. Last year’s workshop was humbling for me. It showed that I had not arrived; that there’s always room for progress.
3. We shared six instructional sessions together, some on convictions required for biblical exposition and others on tools we need to go about the work. Which instruction was your favorite and how do you believe it will help your preaching?
My favorite instructional section was on structure. It helped me to see that I move too quickly through texts. Instead of pausing to see how the structure of the text clues us into the author’s emphasis, my tendency is to isolate a few insights from the text, then jump quickly into crafting the sermon. Instead, this section reminded me that the text itself tells you how it’s to be preached by careful attention to the details of its structure.
4. You spent six hours in a small group of men working on texts together. Tell us about one particularly “aha” moment you had together. I know this might take some work to recall and walk us through, but our church loves hearing of these moments.
The men in my group had a great time encouraging one another under the guidance of Abe Stratton, our group leader.
I was assigned Revelation 2:1-7, the Lord Jesus’ warning to the church at Ephesus. There Jesus commands the church to repent and return to “the love they had at first.” My sermon emphasized the promise at the end of the passage; the “conqueror” would “eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God.” What my group helped me to see was, though gloriously true, this promise is the not the primary word Jesus had for Ephesus. Jesus’ primary exhortation was, “repent!” My work came from the passage, but the main point of the sermon was not in complete alignment with the emphasis of the passage. This was such a helpful “aha” moment. There’s a main sermon point derived from a passage, and then there’s a main sermon point consistent with the main point of a passage. This distinction, though seemingly slight, is the difference between preaching that’s just informed by the Bible versus preaching truly rooted in the Bible. I’m thankful for the men who helped me to see this.
5. Our goal at these workshops isn’t perfection but progress. How did this year’s workshop help you make progress in your Word work?
It reminded me of my need to slow down in study. I can be presumptuous with familiar passages, assuming I already know what the author is saying and how I will preach it. Rather than slowing down to give careful, sustained attention to the text, I fly through my exegesis to get into crafting the sermon. This is a guaranteed path into biblically-informed, not biblically-rooted teaching.
6. How can we pray for you and your church?
We want to be like Heritage when we grow up! Heritage has a long legacy of sending plants, pastors, and sharing resources all while remaining faithful; we want that culture here!