One of the great challenges of having biblical training entirely online is teaching students about preaching. How do you teach a student how to create and deliver a sermon with only an Internet connection? Don’t you need time in the classroom? These were all things that we struggled with when the first class about learning to preach went live. Through trial and error we found that there are a few factors that can deliver a great sermon construction class without the overhead of a seminary building or face-to-face interaction. First I’ll show you a couple things that we tried that didn’t work. Then we’ll go over what did.
What we did wrong in Our Sermon Construction Class
One of our first ideas was video. Everyone today has some sort of camera, whether it’s a digital camera or just something built into a mobile phone or laptop. So when we approached the idea of including sermon construction in our biblical training, we thought this was a brilliant application of technology. Have students write the sermon, then video themselves giving the sermon! The video then had to be submitted for credit.
It did seem like a great idea, but as time went on it became increasingly clear that this was not the way to go. We began encountering problems as our biblical training spread to poorer countries where people often did not have video equipment. Others had such a slow connection speed that their upload kept getting interrupted. Some were just too poor quality to get a good impression. Clearly video sermons were not going to work.
When constructing our first class on preaching methods, we also decided to have one professor give examples of all the different styles in conjunction with the course work. This seemed like a great idea as well. After all, in a traditional seminary setting there would be one professor for a course. In online biblical training, why not have that professor give a video example of each style of preaching so that students could see it in action?
What we did right in our Sermon Construction class
When it became clear to us that some methods just weren’t working to their full potential, we reexamined our approach to teaching preaching. One of the first ideas that we came up with was replacing the video sermons in our biblical training with a mentor relationship. Instead of sending a video to us, students now read their sermons to their mentors and take a mentor-guided survey after the sermon is delivered. This puts a lot of trust in the mentors, but we at Christian Leaders Institute have found that students who are called by God can pick good mentors who will fill this role even above what we hope and expect. This mentor relationship takes some of the burden off CLI and reduces faculty overhead.
As we looked at the various methods of preaching we thought about the value of the Internet. The very tool that we were using to reach thousands of called leaders throughout the world had a wealth of resources that we weren’t even tapping into for our class. Many pastors had sermons available in video format online. Many pastors had instructional videos available online. Instead of using a single faculty member in our biblical training to illustrate sermon construction and various preaching methods, why not use pastors who were known for and excelled in each specific model?
We consulted Google, and our queries turned up excellent examples of the different styles of preaching. Now, instead of featuring a single faculty member delivering brief examples of each method, our sermon construction class features many different pastors each giving a full sermon in the style in which they excel. This concept has revolutionized our biblical training. Even our students recognize the value of having the various pastors preaching in their respective styles. One student wrote,
“I thank all of the Pastors who let Christian Leaders Institute to use their sermons to help us in our walk. I watch Billy Graham even now when there is a re-run on TBN. I watch Oral Roberts, Kenneth Copeland, Jimmy Swagart, Benny Hinn, and TD Jakes. I now added a number of new generation preachers to my “favorites” list of Preachers. Students of Christian Leaders Institute are truly blessed to be able to receive biblical training from so many wonderful preachers and professors for a great job well done on this course. Thank you CLI for this amazing course.”
The Necessity for Preaching Instruction in Biblical Training
Sermon Construction and Presentation is an important class for students for a variety of reasons. First, whether a student is studying specifically for a pastoral call or not, Sermon Construction and Presentation gives them the tools to make sure that their message is clear and concise. Youth leaders will be able to craft better event plans. Sunday school teachers will be able to create lessons their students won’t forget. Leaders within the church will learn how to present themselves when speaking in front of others.
Of course, the biblical training holds the greatest importance for those who desire to assume the pastoral role. In fact, many students who have already been serving as pastor for many years have found that this course has been a great help to them. One student says,
“To conclude, I had several opportunities to preach in churches and before I took this course I thought I had the correct methodology for sermon writing and preaching. But in going through the course I find myself as a little child discovering for the first time a mathematics theorem and trying the best he or she can to apply it now and then. I was so excited in learning more and more about sermon construction. The whole course opened my eyes on what was a true preparation for sermon it’s not only about how we study the word but it’s also about how we present the word. It doesn’t only require a good speech but also a proper behavior. So in order to prepare a sermon one has to give himself completely: Spirit, mind, soul and body.”
Whether the person taking our sermon construction course is somebody who is called to be a church leader or somebody already in a leadership position, we have heard from our students that it is a very effective class and a valuable tool for them. It gives them more confidence in their preaching. It shows them new possibilities for preaching. It gives them much needed biblical training. Most of all, it opens them up so that the Holy Spirit can do greater works through them. As we consider the impact of an online Bible school on worldwide revival, we cannot underestimate the value of a good sermon construction class.