Having sixteen students in sermon session this year initially posed some logistical problems for the seminary; like how to fit sixteen sermons into ten sessions. These are the sorts of problems that I’m sure the faculty are happy to be facing, but they are problems nonetheless. What was decided was to have two students deliver a sermon each week, with both sermons on the same text. That way, while the workload for the professors is doubled – two sermons per week, instead of one – it isn’t as doubled as it could have been. That may not make sense for your calculator, but it does for the college. This means that each student, over the course of the year, will get to deliver three sermons.
This sort of situation obviously creates space for some competition. Not every student feels that that kind of competition would be helpful, but I’m not adverse to it. As long as it stays friendly and constructive, competition can file things to a sharp edge, the way we want our preaching to be. My first preach-off comes in three weeks when both third-year Randall and I will deliver sermons on Luke 13:6-9.
Probably one of the more interesting courses we’ll be taking is Evangelistics and World Religions. Interesting, in part, because of the assignments. For one assignment each student will be given a text from which to compose a ten-minute radio address. Each of us will write our own message, and then go to Harpert Vanderwel’s basement where we will each be recorded doing our best to evangelize a microphone. One message will be aired each week from December 1 – March 30 on the “Voice of the Church” radio program.
The other assignment is a group assignment, I believe the first one I’ve had at CRTS. Each group will be composed of a maximum of four students, and each group will do one of five topics. The topics are really quite fascinating:
1) Develop a Canadian Reformed version of the URCNA’s “How to Plant a Reformed Church.”
2) Analyze, assess and compare Alpha and Christianity Explored as courses for newcomers to the faith.
3) Analyze and assess the approach to evangelism and church planting used by Redeemer Presbyterian (Tim Keller’s) Church in New York.
4) Describe and analyze the ministries of three “missional churches” in downtown Hamilton (eg. New City PCA, Hughson Street Baptist, but not Streetlight).
5) Report on African immigrant churches in Hamilton, focusing on one group in particular.
Each group will then present its report toward the end of the semester. The reason I think that it’s fascinating is because the idea of local missions is becoming more popular in our churches. We are all very aware of how secular our society has become, and we’re recognizing more and more the need for the gospel of Christ to be preached in our own cities. This is probably why, although the students haven’t been separated into their groups yet, topic 1 looks like a popular one. And while it isn’t the primary intent of the project, such a report could have immediate practical uses for our churches. In fact, each of topics 2-4 could also contribute to a fuller understanding of local and urban missions, and hopefully they can help to inform Canadian Reformed evangelistic policies in the future. Personally, I’m aiming for topic 2.
This looks like the busiest semester yet. In addition to the above mentioned assignments, we’ll be writing a Dogmatics paper, which runs between 5000-6000 words; and we haven’t yet been assigned our Old Testament exegesis project, which apparently is the sort of paper where staplers go to die. There are sermons, chapels, one hundred or so proof-texts to memorize, and a number of babies on the way (including our own). But I’m more than happy to be back!
In other news, perhaps listening to the pope neatly remove Christ from Christianity will force Catholics into asking themselves some difficult questions.