What’s at stake in the preacher’s work? Quite a bit actually.
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. —1 Timothy 4:16
That’s why we host a preaching workshop every year for preachers in the Upstate, a partnershop with The Charles Simeon Trust. Our Lord loves us so much that he calls our preachers to this kind of careful work.
This year’s workshop ran from January 25–27. We were joined by 63 teachers and preachers from 25 churches, including 25 lead pastors.
James Sharp is a new friend to our church and the preaching pastor at Life Church in Salisbury, NC. James was a small group leader for this year’s workshop. I’ve asked him to share about himself, his church, and the workshop we just hosted.
1. Tell us a little about your church, how you came there, and about your role.
Life Church was planted in 2014, out of the dissolution of a large, multisite church. In our (almost) nine years of ministry, the Lord has brought many gospel-loving and theologically-sound people to us. Prior to that transition, our church was numerically healthy and marked by vigorous activity with lots of ministry in our community. Today, by God’s grace, those external markers of health are paired with a growing love for the Word—one that has been sparked by a renewed commitment to biblical exposition—and expository preaching in particular.
I came to the church at the end of 2019, right before COVID-19 turned the world upside down. My responsibilities focus on teaching and vision. I preach around 38 weekends each year, lead our staff and elder teams, develop, cast, and implement the church’s vision, and invest in rising leaders.
2. You’ve been doing these workshops for quite a few years. Tell us how you got involved in them and why you stay involved?
At the invitation of a friend, I attended a Simeon Trust workshop for the first time in 2013. We worked in the minor prophets, studying Habakkuk and Malachi. I was a newly installed lead pastor of a large church at the time. I had some unarticulated and undeveloped commitments to biblical exposition in the pulpit and in the life of the church, but Simeon Trust helped clarify and formalize those commitments. As I look back, God was so kind to lead me to that workshop at that time. The ministry vision cast by the Simeon Trust was exactly what I longed for, and exactly what I needed.
I keep coming back to workshops because I need the reminder, year after year, that biblical exposition is necessary and possible. In addition, I love to spend time in a room with other pastors studying God’s Word. Now when I attend, because of my experience, I get the opportunity to invest in younger pastors and Bible teachers, which is an added bonus.
3. Each year we spend about six hours in small groups where we come with work prepared on several preaching texts and then help one another make progress with thoughtful questions to help one another along. Tell us about the make up of your group. Then tell us about one particularly “aha” moment you had together.
My small group this year was quite young and less experienced. Simeon Trust organizes small groups according to experience level, so I was with newer preachers. Some of the men were clearly in the deep end of the pool. I’m glad they came.
The most exciting part of that process is seeing the growth in the work of a man between the first and second worksheet presentations. Usually, guys do their work before they come, and their first presentation reflects their understanding of the process of interpretation before the workshop. After that first presentation, many guys will completely redo their work—utilizing the tools and strategies the Simeon Trust teaches—before presenting their second worksheet. For a couple of men in my group, the first presentation was quite poor. But then the second was quite good! It was exciting to see their progress in understanding the Word, even in a short time.
4. Our goal at these workshops isn’t perfection but progress. How did this year’s workshop help you make progress in your Word work?
I think I have attended a dozen workshops now. It never ceases to amaze me that I will still allow my habits to get a little sloppy, or a little lazy, over time. I don’t even realize it until I attend again, only to be confronted by small areas of “drift” away from a disciplined and rigorous approach to God’s Word.
In addition, attending a workshop annually allows me to remember, and believe again, that biblical exposition is necessary and possible. I need to be reminded of these things. I need others who believe them to encourage me to believe them. As we all are, I am in danger of drifting away from biblical convictions—even in the way I approach preaching. The Simeon Trust has helped me fight against that drift, time and time again.
5. How can we pray for you and your church?
Please pray that the Word of God would continue to increase among our people (Acts 6:7). Pray that the Lord would give our people soft, fruitful hearts from which to respond to the Word (Mark 4:20). Pray that we would delight in Scripture, finding it to be more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey (Ps. 19:10). And pray that the Lord would use his Word to accomplish his work among his people for the glory of his Name (Isa. 55:8-11).