Michael Hyatt left a comment:Blogger, unlike WordPress :( does not seem to collect (or at least does not offer bloggers a chance to see) the IP addresses of commenters, and this one was "Annonymous" but I am glad to hear that such behaviour is not approved, though puzzled since another biblical studies blogger has had similar experiences advertising your company's products. I do NOT object to anyone linking to your product pages, IF they are relevant and add something to the discussion.
I am the CEO of Thomas Nelson. We do not encourage or promote comment spam. Like you, I hate it. I spend more time than I would like deleting it from my own blog.
If you have an IP address or other information from the person who commented, I will be happy to take the appropriate action.
Prof. Keith BurnettIf you are a biblical scholar, or amateur of the field, you might consider a similar letter, the address is email@example.com
The University of Sheffield
I have been shocked to read reports that the University is considering closing the Biblical Studies department. As you know this department regularly scores highly in various comparative assessments, and has a excellent reputation worldwide as one of the major research and teaching institutions in the discipline. A generation ago there was suspicion of the unusual step of creating a biblical studies department outside theology, however developments in society and especially in the discipline since then have vindicated this decision.
As well as knowing of the department through its staff's publications I spent a highly stimulating sabbatical in Sheffield a few years ago, and have the highest respect for the work I saw. Teaching an undergraduate course as well as participating in the departmental seminars, which were the liveliest and most intellectually stimulating I have attended.
It would be a loss to the discipline globally if this department were closed. Many staff in institutions such as the one in which I teach received their PhDs from Sheffield (in our case most of us studied in NZ, but the head of our Mandarin-speaking programme is a Sheffield graduate).
I find the decision particularly shocking as there seems to have been little consultation either within the University or beyond.
Tools in my Granddad's workshop were sharp, honed and glistened with a thin film of oil. My mother's dad was a carpenter. I'm not a carpenter, the tools in my garage are a disgrace, granddad would be ashamed, blunt and hardly usable, sometimes even rusted...
So, in Carey chapel recently, when Rachel asked some Carey staff if they could tell her in one word: What makes a good sermon?
I had the answer...
Over the years I've heard lots of sermons: students, visiting preachers, churches I visit... Frankly, too many sermons are like the tools in my garage, blunt, occasionally rusty, and often being used for the wrong job.
Like many people who grew to adulthood in the TV age, I have a short attention span. Like many people who spend a lot of time on the Internet, my attention span has probably shortened in recent years. I'm used to sound bites, and quickly clicking on to another destination. I recorded one of Spurgeon's sermons for LibriVox.org, the site that provides free audio books, it lasted nearly 45 minutes! Presumably, in the Nineteenth century, Spurgeon fans could keep their attention focused that long. I can't. My students can't. And my children (grown up though they are) certainly can't!
So, I have the answer to Rachel's question. In one word. "Sharp". A good sermon is sharp. Like the finely honed tools in granddad's workshop, a good sermon cuts straight to the point. As few extras as possible. Like those tools it HAS a point. A good sermon is brief, to be memorable. It has a point; it should leave its hearers with some call to action. Their living should change somehow from hearing it.
Pointed, memorable, and short, a good sermon calls me to conversion. Either to that first conversion where we turn to God in Christ and away from self and sin, or the regular smaller conversions that follow the first big turnaround as Jesus takes over as master of our lives more and more. That's pointed! But how many sermons fail to make a connection to my daily living that requires me to act?
If that "point" is blunt, then the sermon is worthless, merely good advice from some smart guy (and it is often a mistake male preachers make) to others whose lives are pretty much "together", but just need a little tinkering. I don't need advice on living; I need to be brought face to face with my saviour.
Other sermons have a point, but they are rusty. The point is blunted by too much other stuff that creeps into the sermon by the back door. Funny stories, scenes from the latest movies (that I have not yet seen), reminiscences from the preacher's previous church... if these "illustrations" really DO illustrate, they can help me remember, but if they fail in that, they merely blunt the point, like rust on my chisels.
So, in one word (since the six hundred I was allocated are nearly used ;) a good sermon is "sharp". Short, so busy TV educated, Wikipedia consulting scatterbrains like me can concentrate for the 15-20 minutes without wandering too much. Sharp, they prod me to change; they aim at conversion - avoiding the temptation to be clever or wise. Memorable, after all, if your sermon has three alliterative sections, that between them neatly encapsulate the message of the Bible text, but I forget them before my car has left the church car park, what use was it?
Like granddad's chisels a good sermon is sharp!
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