The Need for Pastoral Evaluation
Pastors should be constantly learning. Thankfully, in this day and age, there are a number of ways to continue learning. From conferences held by larger organizations and seminaries to online tools provided to continue sharpening your abilities, pastors have a wealth of resources available to them.
While these resources are invaluable, they lack a level of review. Week after week, pastors stand in pulpits proclaiming the Word to their congregations. Generally, the only feedback pastors receive on their preaching is a short word of encouragement from congregants as they leave the service. Rarely does a pastor’s preaching get a “peer review.”
The Difficulty of Further Seminary Training
Seminary education is one pathway to “peer review.” It is a must before entering the ministry, to evaluate a man’s call and giftedness for ministry. However, further seminary education is often not feasible once in the pastorate, especially for the lone pastor of a small church.
I encountered this reality myself. Presented with a pathway to pursue another degree, the workload seemed insurmountable. There just was not enough time in a week. As a solo pastor, my responsibilities included preparation for at least 3 sermons a week, administrative tasks relevant to our ministry, counseling sessions, planning and execution of outreach and fellowship activities, and the attention needed by my family.
All of this pulls a pastor in several different directions weekly, and the thought of adding formal seminary education on top of all my other responsibilities was insurmountable. Yet, I knew I needed to continue honing my abilities as a pastor and expositor of God’s Word.
A Welcome Alternative
As I pursued further sharpening of my skills through conferences and seminars, I had the opportunity to attend The Institute for Expository Preaching held by Dr. Steve Lawson and put on by his OnePassion Ministries. The institute is a two-and-a-half-day seminar where Dr. Lawson provides lectures on preaching as well as opportunities for interaction through Q&A sessions and personal interaction with the attendees.
I found the institute to be immensely helpful as a refresher of the principles of exposition I learned in seminary and as a challenge to implement other helpful suggestions. Though I found the institute to be greatly helpful, as time went on and the institute grew in popularity, they were no longer held at a location convenient for me to attend.
However, in the fall of last year, I received an email from OnePassion Ministries that introduced the Academy for Expository Preaching. Upon perusing the information in the email and the website, I was excited for this opportunity. After speaking with church leadership, I received approval to pursue the Academy. Waiting until the holiday season settled down, I signed up in April of this year and began my 12-week journey.
The Structure of the Academy
The Academy is structured in three modules, which include a total of 28 roughly half hour lectures. The lectures include engaging and helpful content that moves from the history of preaching in the Scriptures to the demands of Scripture on preaching. The lectures close with specific instruction on the development and delivery of a sermon.
I found these lectures to be very helpful, especially the survey of preaching throughout the Scriptures. Throughout the lectures, Dr. Lawson models proper exposition so that you not only hear what expository preaching should be but you also are able to observe it.
During the 12-week program, you are asked to read three books on preaching. The assigned reading amounted to around 850 pages over the 12 weeks. The books were a nice mix of modern and classic works on preaching. Their content was solidly evangelical and challenged my thinking in several areas. Rarely do you come across a published work where there is nothing you take issue with, and these books were no exception, but I found the reading to be very beneficial. After completing the reading of each book, there is a challenging quiz over its content. The quiz result is included in your final grade.
The Academy sets itself apart from other online learning resources through its assignments. The purpose of the assignments is to provide evaluation of the student’s implementation of the process of expository preaching, from the initial interpretation stage to the delivery stage. This “peer review” process was what really drew me to the Academy.
Three assignments must be completed within the 12-week program: an exegetical assignment, a preparation assignment, and a homiletical assignment. The exegetical assignment asks you to make 50 observations of a text, assigning certain categories to help guide you through the exegetical and interpretative process. The preparation assignment builds on your exegetical assignment as you provide an outlined sermon manuscript. The final homiletical assignment has you evaluate a video of your delivery of the sermon you prepared.
Each assignment is reviewed by a grader. These graders are men who are pastors themselves and have demonstrated exceptional facility with expository preaching. I found their feedback to be encouraging and helpful in further improving my own preaching. They engaged comprehensively with my assignments, providing encouragement in areas where I had done well and offering constructive criticism in areas that needed improvement. It was both a confirmation that I was on the right track with my interpretative and homiletical efforts and a challenge to improve. Getting the feedback of other, gifted pastors and expositors is the real gold of the Academy.
The Academy is relatively new, and with any new endeavor—especially one of this size—there are growing pains. I found communication with those running the Academy to be difficult. At the outset of my enrollment in the Academy, emails would go unanswered for a couple of weeks, and I had a couple emails that were never answered at all. However, this changed as I neared the completion of the Academy.
I also found the quizzes to be more difficult than I expected. This may be because it has been nearly a decade since I sat in a seminary class. I was not expecting the level of detail asked in the quizzes. I also found some inconsistencies in the grading of assignments compared to what was detailed in the syllabus. These amounted to minor frustrations and did not detract from the overall benefit.
I found the Academy for Expository Preaching to be a valuable use of my time and resources. I have always benefitted from Steve Lawson’s ministry, and his work at the Academy is immensely helpful. The lectures encouraged and strengthened my commitment to expository preaching as the biblical pattern for proclamation of the Word. The readings and quizzes were a welcome academic exercise and provided helpful content to further shape my own preaching. The real benefit of the Academy was the graded assignments. This “peer review” aspect was exactly what I needed. For a busy, solo pastor of a small congregation, having my exegesis, sermon preparation, and sermon delivery evaluated provided both confirmation that I am on the right track and encouragement to pursue further improvement as I feed the flock.
The Academy is not without a cost. It requires a significant commitment of both time and money. The expectation is that all the lectures, readings, and assignments will be completed in 12 weeks. Considering the over 14 hours of lectures, extensive reading, and required assignments, one must be disciplined in working at a reasonable pace. The Academy currently costs $399, which can be split into 3 monthly payments. They also offer a “Gift One, Get One” option for $499. While the commitment of time and money is not small, I can assure you that it is worth it. I highly encourage anyone who preaches regularly to seriously consider this opportunity. You won’t regret it!
Proclamation of the eternal truths of God’s Word is the most important activity in the world. It is a weighty thing to stand behind a pulpit and open the Scriptures to people. An activity of such consequence is certainly worthy of regular evaluation. Preachers need to be constantly challenging themselves to grow more in faithfulness to the Word. The Academy for Expository Preaching does just that, and it does it well, all to the glory of God.
You can learn more about the Academy for Expository Preaching and apply to become a student at theexpositorsAcademy.org.