My sermon assistant: Help for today’s preachers
Every pastor knows the feeling. The weekend is coming—and the sermon is not ready. That experience can be uneasy, disturbing, and anxiety-ridden. To add to the situation, you face unexpected, legitimate demands. And, before you know it, it is evening, you are tired, and the sermon is to be preached tomorrow morning.
As one who has been there, I thought to share from my own experience, coupled with those of others, a method which has helped turn around my approach to sermon preparation. I am talking about a sermon-preparation and Bible-study tool that is accessible and easy to use: Logos Bible software. For the record: I have no shares with the Logos Bible software company, nor have I ever worked for them. It is, however, a God-sent tool that, for more than 15 years, has aided my study and sermon preparation.
The need for preparation
Benjamin Franklin clearly stated, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”1 Essentially, Franklin advocates the necessity of preparation in any assignment. Jesus employed the principle of preparation. In Luke 14:28–33, He said that one ought to consider the cost before building a tower. Likewise, one charged with the pastoral duties, such as regular preaching, must make the requisite plans to ensure that he or she is equipped with the “what” and the “know how” to produce fresh and biblical messages.
Of course, there are times when one may use prepared sermons, such as when starting out in ministry or involved in an evangelistic campaign, particularly when home and library are far away. However, a Bible software containing various Bible versions, com-mentaries, journals, concordances, dictionaries, and other resource books in one platform, can be accessed even while mobile. These advantages have been made possible through Logos.
Spiritual preparation is paramount because it involves more than tools or software. The preacher seeks to communicate the mind of God. H. M. S. Richards, a powerful preacher and founder of the Voice of Prophecy radio program, explained that preaching is “God’s message, from God’s Book, by God’s man, in God’s house, on God’s day—that’s preaching!”2
Additionally, preaching involves being in touch with God to speak His word with a sense of confidence and boldness, notwithstanding the audi-ence, place, or circumstance. Evangelist Billy Graham had such an experience when he visited the former Soviet Union in 1982. He states, “I knew that we were entering the very center of Soviet power, but the thought did not alarm me or make me nervous. I had the feeling that God was with me, and I knew the Lord was going to give me the words to say and the boldness to speak about Christ.”3
Without argument, the secret to such public manifestations is in personal and private time with God. Dr. Roland Hill asserts, “Your devotional life is always on public display.”4 That speaks to the importance of personal and private time with God that mani-fests itself publicly.
The preacher must spend time in prayer and reading God’s Word to understand what God would have him or her say so that he or she may com-municate it with authority. After all, Scripture states of Peter and John that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31, NKJV).
A mobile library
I have heard speakers say, “I don't need preparation, just the anointing of the Holy Spirit.” I believe such a statement constitutes an excuse for lack of preparation and discipline because sermon preparation involves the discipline of removing self from everything else and devoting quality time to being equipped to speak in behalf of God.
I have deliberately focused, first, on the spiritual groundwork because I do not want to give the impression that Logos is a “eureka” moment that is all we need, overlooking what is basic and fundamental, namely being spiritually prepared. Nevertheless, I have come to appreciate Logos Bible software. Acquiring this software years ago, and having upgraded over the years to the latest release, I am reminded of a friend who works as a building contractor. He would inform me of new tools on the market to assist with his work. Then I thought, “If my friend can upgrade his building skills, what about me in the pulpit? Should I not equip myself with the best tools to enhance my sermon preparation?”
Remember the days of parallel Bibles? Those large books that gave access to just a few Bible versions for parallel reading? With Logos, I choose my preferred version, the New King James, or any other one I want at the time.
I received upgrades as Logos grew, developed, and expanded. I became so impressed that I invited an official Logos trainer to come to my church conference in the Bahamas, to train pastors and elders on the use of the software. The conference invested in the software for each pastor and supple-mented the cost of a smaller version for elders. Later, the biggest gratification came with news that the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary set,which had been placed on CD, was now compatible for Logos, accessible via the software. In addition, all books by Seventh-day Adventist Church pioneer Ellen White were integrated into the Logos format. It did not stop there.
In 2013, Logos introduced a Seventh-day Adventist version of the software.5 That meant that most of the books produced by Seventh-day Adventist authors were being integrated into Logos. Principally, I had my library with me, and it was now mobile—I could access my books and do research via my laptop, smartphone, or iPad.
Benefits of the software
Apart from mobility, I could do research virtually anywhere once I had access to the internet. For instance, with Logos in hand, if I wanted to check the original meaning of a word just before I spoke, the Hebrew or Greek root was at my disposal via my smartphone. Also, I could determine the usage of a word (for example, the number of times a given word was used in a chapter, book, or the entire Bible). Bible students know the value of an exhaustive concordance. And there was more: I could look up biblical terms using the best biblical dictionaries.
Is it any wonder that Logos has been called “the Cadillac of Bible software”?6 Reviewer Jim Erwin adds that the program’s power lies in its ability to link “every word so that one can make comprehensive searches in seconds. The good: The library of resources are enormous, the software is cross-platform (Mac, PC, Android, iPad, iPhone). When you sign-in, all of the resources for the program are synced. The search capabilities are fast.”7 Additionally, Logos is rated “the most powerful Bible software” and “the most-easy to use”8 for preaching, teaching, and studying.
Without a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, one can now look up the original meaning of any Bible word. Bible maps can be accessed to view the passages of the children of Israel in the Old Testament or the ministry of Jesus in the New. Measurements can be ascertained to determine the distance from one place to another. Without technology, this process would be tedious and time-consuming. With the technology, there is so much one can access pertaining to the Word of God, so that no preacher need be deprived of materials to build sound and solid biblical sermons.
Taking the plunge
While I reference the Logos Bible software, many other products are available: e-Sword (Windows), Eloquent (Mac), Accordance Bible Software (Mac), Bible Works (Windows and Mac), iLu-mina Gold (Mac and Windows), PC Study Bible (Windows), QuickVerse (Windows), SwordSearcher Bible Software (Windows), and Wordsearch Preaching Library (Windows). I would encourage pastors to use whatever they can access that will enhance their Bible study and sermon preparation.
Tom Gill explains, regarding the referenced software products, “Without exception, all the products reviewed loaded easily and worked right out of the box. They all performed well, and no bugs or glitches were discovered. All the products were presented in a visu-ally consistent manner; however, each was developed around the particular strengths inherent in the software. We found all of them to be very useful and find it difficult to rate any one a clear ‘top choice.’ ”9 However, Gill pointed out, “As with all the products reviewed, the software engine is what determines the ease of use and portability of the software. For example, Logos Library System (LLS) is the engine used to drive the Logos Scholar Edition and also serves as the engine for other software libraries, including Jack Hayford’s Spirit-Filled Life Library, Thomas Nelson Electronic Reference, Josh McDowell Library, Word Biblical Commentaries, John MacArthur’s, Charles Stanley’s and more. Users can mix and match from various sources and create a custom library that suits them best.”10
Mary Fairchild, while comparing the top ten Bible software products listed above, observed, “Logos Bible Software is my number one choice for paid Bible study software. Logos is designed for anyone from the beginner Bible software user to the most serious Bible scholar. I’ve been using the software since 2008. Logos has radically simplified the task of Bible study for me. It’s given depth and breadth to my research I never imagined possible.”11
Keep the bell ringing
Having made the case for the best in Bible software products, I still urge that one should never believe that software, no matter how well put together, will suffice for study and personal time with the Author of the Bible. Bible software is a means to an end. To think otherwise is to make an unfortunate mistake. What good is it to come across impressively in the pulpit, yet be lacking the Holy Spirit? However, after you dedicate your life to God and spend quality time with Him, I believe that this technology will greatly enhance the impact you make from the pulpit.
While a young preacher in his humble home in Ottawa, Canada, H. M. S. Richards was visited by William A. Spicer, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Richards remembers specifically that Spicer admired his library. Today, tech-nology affords us access to far more material. Nevertheless, more important than the admiration of Richards’s library is what Elder Spicer later said to him, when Richards visited Spicer’s sickbed a few weeks before he died: “Keep the bell ringing! Keep the bell ringing!” To which Richards responded, “I hope I do, as long as I live.”12 To all sons and daughters of Issachar, men and women with an “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32), I employ the same expression: “Keep the bell ringing!” And with the advantages of technology literally at our fingertips, I believe we can keep it ringing louder and clearer than ever.
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1 Dumb Little Man, “7 Must Read Life Lessons From Benjamin Franklin,” Business Insider, May 31, 2011, businessinsider.com/7-must-read-life-lessons-from -benjamin-franklin-2011-6.
2 Robert E. Edwards, H. M. S. Richards (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1998), 260.
3 Billy Graham, Just As I Am:The Autobiography of Bill Graham (New York: Harper Collins, 1997), 506.
4 Roland Hill, “Home Run Preaching,” Pastors and Elders Conclave, South Bahamas Conference, Nassau, Bahamas, September 1, 2017, www.southbahamasconference.org/news.php?post_id=327&title=pastors-and-elders -conclave-september-2017
5 Logos Forum discussion between Martin Weber and Lynden Williams, June 10, 2013.
6 Jim Erwin, “Top 10 Bible Study Software Programs,” Patheos (blog), May 22, 2014, patheos.com/blogs /jimerwin/2014/05/22/top-10-bible-study-software -programs/.
7 Erwin, “Top 10 Bible Study Software Programs.”
8 Barry McCarty, “Review of Logos Bible Software Scholar’s Library,” Christians Standard, July 6, 2003, 13, as seen at logos.com/press/reviews /christianstandard07-2003.
9 Tom Gill, “The Best in Bible Software,” MinistryToday, November 1, 2000, ministrytodaymag.com/facilities /equipment/718-the-best-in-bible-software.
10 Gill, “Best Bible Software.”
12 Edwards, H. M. S. Richards, 238.