2020 marks the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland (formerly Baptist Union of Ireland) in 1895. In February 1895 there was a “call to prayer” issued to the churches, encouraging them to plead with God to move among our churches. Wishing to echo that sentiment the Executive Committee of the Association have issued a similar call: “unite to pray.”
Throughout 2020 the College will draw your attention to this call to “unite to pray” with a monthly “Friends of the College” blog post linked to the “unite to pray” prayer diary. The April notes encourage us to pray that the preaching of the gospel would enlighten the eyes of many. Preaching is something we take seriously here at the Irish Baptist College, as our Principal explains:
Most students who come to IBC follow the Ministry Preparation Course which comprises a degree programme accredited by the University of Chester. Alongside this, most students also take a range of other modules leading to a College award (such as a Diploma or Certificate in Ministry Studies). These College modules include: Global & Ministry Perspectives, Bible Communication Workshop, Principles and Practice of Evangelism, Understanding the Church, Children’s & Youth Work and Sermon Class.
Sermon class is a module in which the College has heavily invested its time and energy so that a double lecture each week is committed to this subject throughout the academic year.
Why offer Sermon Class?
We are passionate about this class for a number of solid reasons:
- The Lord Jesus came into the world as a sacrifice for our sins but also, pointedly, as a preacher (this is the clear emphasis in Mark’s Gospel for example – see 1:21, 1:38, 2:2 , 4:1).
- It is God’s will that his servants ‘preach the word’ (2 Timothy 4:2).
- Faithful Bible preaching has been the hallmark of the authentic Christian church down the centuries.
- The primary way in which believers are built up in the faith is through good Bible exposition.
- Evangelistic preaching is a vital means of reaching the lost.
- The principles undergirding Sermon Class apply also to a whole range of vocations where good communication is essential.
- College training must always be in the service of the church producing effective Christian leaders who will make a real impact on their generation.
For these reasons, and more, Sermon Class comes near the top of IBC’s list of priorities. The core ministry of the College since its establishment in 1892, has been to prepare pastors for the Churches of our Association and so in this 125thAnniversary year it is important to reaffirm our commitment to the task of preaching and the training of preachers for our Churches.
What does Sermon Class look like?
In the first period a student will conduct a complete service of worship including hymns, prayers, Scripture reading and then a sermon, the subject being one chosen by the faculty. In the first semester subjects include character studies, evangelistic addresses, Harvest, Christmas and Easter, and special services such as baptisms and funerals. In the second semester usually a sermon series is followed alternating between Old Testament and New Testament passages.
In the second period the class group discusses the conduct of worship, with the help of a guidance sheet, and offers constructive criticism which is then delivered by a tutor to the student concerned.
Our female students have a similar experience in delivering a talk to the Ladies Study Fellowship under the watchful eye of Gail Curry, the Baptist Women’s Director.
The majority of students find the process rather daunting but nonetheless invaluable in their development as preachers and communicators. Recent feedback on the module included the following comment from a student: ‘Sermon Workshop is the most difficult thing for me to do in college. I always feel very nervous and it is very daunting. But I can safely say it is the best experience! I have learnt and grown so much in my faith and my ability to handle the word. I am so thankful for this tough class and how it has helped me greatly’.
Currently, as you will appreciate, we find ourselves unable to physically meet in College and our classes have been discontinued. However, as you read this blog post, please remember to pray for our students in their ongoing training and especially on Wednesday mornings from September, as classes resume God-willing, and they face the challenge (and blessing) of Sermon Class.