Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a Charles Simeon Trust workshop in Charleston, SC. The focus was preaching historical narrative in 1 Samuel. The organization is named after Charles Simeon, a faithful Bible preacher in England during the 1700s. Charles Simeon pastored for fifty-four years, faithfully preaching God’s Word Lord’s day after Lord’s day for more than fifty years. He describes his task this way:
My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have great jealousy on this head—never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding…to endeavor to give every portion of the word of God its full and proper force, without considering what scheme it favours, or whose system it is likely to advance.
What Charles Simeon Trust Is About
In the spirit of Charles Simeon, the Charles Simeon Trust (CST) endeavors to equip preachers with practical skills in handling God’s Word in a manner faithful to what the text says. The format of the workshop includes three kinds of talks: 1) Plenary Instruction Talks; 2) Break-out Session; and 3) Exposition.
Plenary Instruction Talks
During the instruction time, the key speakers either demonstrate some exegetical tools/principles or speak on CST’s philosophy of preaching. Most of the talks were about the former. The CST speakers demonstrated various tools for discovering the context, aim, structure, and gospel message of the passage. While many of these ideas can be found in good hermeneutics textbooks or a decent seminary course, CST presents their material with helpful pedagogical tools and illustrations that benefit anyone desiring to study the Bible.
Two sessions focused on two key principles in CST’s philosophy of preaching. First, do not preach more than what the text says or less than what it says. Thus, the repeated admonition was “Don’t go above or below the line. Stay on the line.” The second principle is this: our framework must not shape the text; the Bible must shape our framework. Framework refers to everything that a preacher has in his mind and background, including political beliefs, discouragements, social issues, personal likes and dislikes, cultural trends, and doctrinal convictions. This is unavoidable. Everyone has his own framework. The problem is when we push our framework into the text, making the passage say what it does not say or not say what it says. The Bible is primary. Let it speak the way it wants to speak.
This is what makes CST unique. During the breakout sessions, each participant presents his assigned passage. He is to show what is the context of the passage, the structure, the aim, its gospel message, applications, and homiletical outline. After each presentation, one person critiques the presentation with encouragement regarding what was helpful and with a question to help the presenter improve his understanding of the text. After the response, anyone in the group could chime in with their own critiques, questions, and encouragement. This exercise sharpens one’s exegetical tools through peer review.
Lastly, each day, one of the instructors would preach from a passage, not only to demonstrate the use of the tools being taught but also to edify the whole group. A sermon is not meant only as an academic exercise! A sermon is meant to speak to the hearts and minds of people by the power of the Holy Spirit through the preached Word.
I have been preaching now for more than ten years, and I have been preaching weekly for six of the last ten years. I came out of the preaching workshop refreshed, encouraged, and with more tools in my toolbox.
1. I am encouraged by the commitment to preach God’s Word accurately
The task of preaching God’s Word is too crucial for the life of the church to take it lightly and haphazardly. Unfortunately, many pulpits across the globe do not accurately represent God’s Word.
2. I have gained more insight into studying narratives in general and 1 Samuel in particular
I have gained new tools in assessing plots, scenes, and dialogues in narrative literature. I cannot wait to use them!
Furthermore, I also gained a better understanding of 1 Samuel—the overall point of the book (together with 2 Samuel), how the book fits together, how to account for David’s alliance with the Philistines in the later chapters, and how 1 Samuel points us to Jesus.
3. I have found new ways of teaching others how to study the Bible
The Charles Simeon Trust pattern of training is simple and duplicatable. The instructor tells you the principle. You try the principle together in a passage. Then you do it with your peers. This is one of many pedagogical tools that gives learners a “hands-on” learning experience.
So, whether you are a seasoned preacher or just someone who loves to study God’s Word, I would encourage you to consider attending Charles Simeon Trust. More info can be found on their website here.
P.S. They also have a separate workshop for ladies.