On Homiletics

by Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov

The first video lecture in a series of videos to come thanks to the Pastoral Resources Program.

In this lecture, Fr. Valery speaks on homiletics, the impact it can have on the souls of parishioners, as well as how we can cultivate this spiritual practice in an effective and edifying way. As a vital part of our Orthodox tradition, it is crucial that we learn how to best develop our work in this area to maintain our Tradition, our faith, our knowledge of the Saints and also our how the faithful can better understand their life through Orthodox ways.

God willing this video can help prepare those who have been called to serve, how to better carry out their ministry through proper homiletics grounding and education.

 

 

 

On Homiletics

Homiletics – Just a Practical Subject?

Priest preaching

by Peter Mead

This short article expresses my own experience and feelings about homiletics so well, I had to republish it.

I recently heard a comment I’ve heard at various times and in various forms. Essentially it was a reference to homiletics as if it were a subject of tips for public speaking, a merely practical subject that may or may not be very important in the curriculum of a training institution. Tips for speaking, suggestions on sermon construction, it is really just a fringe subject.

While acknowledging that my perspective may be a bit biased as someone who teaches homiletics, I would beg to differ.

In my own experience of seminary training, it was in homiletics that everything converged.

Bible study methods, exegetical training and biblical theology training converged in homiletics. Finally I discovered how the various elements of fine training coalesced into a coherent whole, with a purposeful goal. Instead of feeling like Bible study would always be both a joyful privilege and an endless task – with the various potential avenues of study never adequately traveled – I saw the personal and corporate fruit of biblical studies as a whole.

The bar is raised on all subjects by homiletics. We have probably all heard the old adage that to learn something well you should teach it. It’s true, having to communicate something verbally to others does stimulate us to learn it at a higher level. So while we may feel blessed to learn about church history and theology and so on, it is when we seek to bring these things to bear in the lives of others that we ourselves learn at a whole new level.

Spiritual formation and Christian devotion feeds into homiletics, which lies at the heart of church ministry, the focus of God’s work in the world. The privilege of the preacher is to shepherd souls, it is soul care – both evangelistically and in edification. This is not mere information transfer, but pastoral ministry in focused form. There are numerous other fields of pastoral ministry, all of which matter and should be taught, but in some way or other, each feeds something into homiletics.

In a sense all subjects converge in homiletics. While some like to say systematic theology is the queen of the sciences, perhaps it is worth considering homiletics as the pinnacle of pastoral and theological education?

Too often homiletics is taught as a little addendum, an almost token seminar in public speaking tacked onto a robust theological education. Let’s think again about the importance of homiletics – for the sake of the institutions, but much more importantly, for the sake of the church.

Source: Biblical Preaching

 

Breaking Into The Future

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As we passed our 5th year of online work in Orthodox homiletics, I was about to close up shop.

I’d spent countless hours, phone calls, emails and resources writing, editing, reviewing and publishing a multitude of articles, essays, helps, and sermons – all for free – in an easy to use (and copy) format, all to assist the Orthodox clergyman or teacher with their work. We provided material that was unavailable almost anywhere else, pioneering blogging helps, articles and encouragement to pastors and interested laypeople around the globe, to help them penetrate online culture and reach others with their zeal and wisdom to spread the light of the Gospel of Christ. Many of them are not even Orthodox!

Many of you kindly contacted me with voices of appreciation and support for what Preachers Institute has been able to help with these past five years.

Recently Preachers Institute was offered matching grant for donations of up to $5,000, to keep advancing our mission and to keep the website active and vibrant.  This is an opportunity which I’m sure will not come to us again anytime soon.

Do you want to help improve the quality of Orthodox Christian preaching & evangelism?

Do you want your priest to have access to what will make him a better preacher?

Do you want to see life-changing, dynamic sermons fervently preached in Orthodox Churches again?

I do, and I’ve spent five years proving I am committed to it. I’m asking you to invest in it now. Several have already donated.

If you appreciate the work done on Preachers Institute, and have benefited from it, give what you can today. Your gift will be DOUBLED – matched, by our anonymous friend. Our friend sees the value in what we are doing. Do you?

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What has Preachers Institute Done?

In the past five years, Preachers Institute has;

  • blazed the trail in online publishing of sermon helps, advice, articles, news for Orthodox clergy, and lots and lots of homilies from the best preachers of the past.
  • published hundreds of articles, sermons, homilies, blog entries and essays – all in an attempt to help out Orthodox clergy and teachers with their sermons and lessons
  • became an early partner with The Academy of Young Preachers, and sponsored several young Orthodox preachers to attend their annual Festival of Preaching.
  • began the annual 30(40) Days of Blogging exercise to promote clergy and lay blogging in a tight time frame with responsible, sober, and spiritually uplifting posts. The number of participants has grown every year and brought more and more teachers and preachers into their own with comfortable and regular writing!
  • put in inquiries to all the Orthodox seminaries in North America about their homiletics teachers and programs
  • spurred the resurrection of the dormant St. Vladimir Seminary D. Min. program, now with a strong homiletics component.
  • published volumes of Patristic and festal homilies, historic U.S. sermons, studies on liturgical furniture for preaching, and works on the spiritual Formation of Preachers.

And there’s more where that came from. We’re just getting started.

 

D. Min. Distance Learning Program Applications Being Accepted

priestsinblue1

Finally a program for advanced homiletics study at an Orthodox institution. This is your chance. If you take preaching seriously, you should seriously read this and consider an application.

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary here is now accepting applications from priests, chaplains, and other professionals in ministry who want to earn an accredited Doctor of Ministry [D.Min] degree through a new hybrid program that combines on-line coursework with on-campus intensive training. In the coming months the seminary administration will begin reviewing applications to admit 15 students into the first cohort of the new program, set to commence with the fall semester 2014. There also will be an on-campus orientation this summer.

The Association for Theological School [ATS] approved the hybrid D.Min. program in fall 2012.  Most recently, on March 21, 2014, the State of New York’s Office of College and University Evaluation also granted its approval. The Danilchick Family Endowment for Pastoral Studies, a fund set up by Protodeacon Peter M. Danilchick and his wife, Tanya, will help support qualified D.Min. students with their tuition through need-based scholarships.

Archpriest Dr. J. Sergius Halvorsen, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at Saint Vladimir’s and the program’s director, observed,

“Receiving authorization for the D.Min. from New York State is a great accomplishment for everyone at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, and I’m extremely happy to complete this stage of initial planning and authorization. Now our world class D.Min. faculty can begin the essential work of strengthening the ministry of priests, chaplains, and others involved in institutional and professional ministry.”

A project that combines research at the doctoral level with the intentional application of pastoral theory in pastoral ministry will comprise the final phase of the program.

“Pastors today face immense challenges,” emphasized Father Sergius. “The depth and intensity of suffering and spiritual darkness in the lives of the people we serve is startling. Facing such serious challenges, there has never been a greater need for excellence in pastoral ministry.”

Program applicants must have at least three years experience in ministry subsequent to their first theological degree, be currently serving in a position of ministry, and be capable of doing doctoral level academic work.

To learn more about the program, contact Father Sergius atshalvorsen@svots.edu or 914-961-8313, x367.  Additional information, including technology requirements, may be accessed here.

 

Prepared in Prayer: Musings on Homiletics and The Preaching Pyramid

by John Anderson

egyptianpyramidAs someone who feels called to the priesthood, who holds a B.S. in Bible and Preaching/Church Leadership, it should not come as a surprise that homiletics are an interest of mine. I spent 5 years learning the craft of expository preaching at Johnson University. Of course I have come to reject the definition of expository proposed by my professors due to its presuppositions regarding the Holy Text as well as Holy Tradition (however I think the Fathers did expository preaching in a way that did not divorce the two) but one thing that has stuck with me is the preparation of homiletics.

Johnson prepared me well to be a good preacher, however, I do not consider myself to be such a preacher. I am not flashy. I am not charismatic. I do not have a strong nor pleasant speaking voice or good accent. I am not very creative either. Despite all of those things I have come to see that prayer is the foundation of homiletics. I would not say my Alma Mater neglected this foundation, but it was for me often an after-thought in sermon preparation.

A sermon may be prepared beforehand, or it may not be. If it is to be stronger than a double-edged sword (carrying Truth on one edge, and cutting down falsehood on the other), it must first of all be prepared in prayer. If the Spirit of power is given from above, the sermon will be ‘a success’ (i.e. will convince, inspire, heal, liberate, help the building of the Kingdom of God). If the spirit is not given, the sermon will either distract or weary the listeners…

Sermons in church should not be unctuous, abounding in archaic words, and platitudes and no artificial rhetorical devices are necessary. The preacher’s words should be direct, simple, spiritually pure and have no ‘worldly’ taint about them…”  -Archbishop John Shahovskoy in “The Orthodox Pastor: A Guide to Pastoral Theology”

Archbishop John is very accurate with his statement regarding prayer. It is very key that our sermons be bathed in prayer. Our homiletics must be pregnant with the Spirit of God brought about by the time we spend in prayer. We should not so much concern ourselves with the world’s rhetoric, although it is not something we should neglect either, but should focus upon our sermons being illumined by the Spirit via prayer.

Father John Peck’s website, The Preachers Institute, has an excellent article written by Father John himself called “The Preaching Pyramid” that outlines a great map of preparation for our homiletics that I want to summarize here as a guideline for fellow preachers. Father John proposes a guideline for preparation that is “an easy to use guideline for sermon prep which establishes what to do, when to do it, why it is important, and what it leads to.”

The Preaching Pyramid is divided into four parts:

  1. Prayer,
  2. Preparation,
  3. Praxis, and
  4. Delivery.

Each divided part of the pyramid is constituted by a percentage making up how much of the pyramid building process (sermon writing) should be spent in each of the four areas. Prayer should be 50% of your time, preparation 30%, praxis 15%, and delivery 5%.

Prayer

Prayer is the base of the pyramid. As with any architectural endeavor one must have a solid foundation. Our prayer should be wholesome, contemplative, and for purpose of edifying our own souls and that of our listeners. Father John writes:

In the Preaching Pyramid, the answer is simple. If the task of preparing and delivering a sermon is considered a whole work (100%), and, according to my reckoning, only 5% of that is actually delivering the sermon, then 50% of the preparatory time is devoted to prayer. That is, if you regularly deliver a 30 minute sermon, then your prayer time in preparation for the sermon should be about 300 minutes, or 5 hours of prayer. Five hours.

This five hours should be devoted to interior prayer, contemplation of the Divine Scriptures, and some significant intercession on behalf of one’s soul and the state of the lives and souls of your listeners.”

A sermon prepared in prayer will be filled with the power of God as Archbishop John so poignantly said. We should begin prayer for our sermon preparation the Monday after Sunday’s Divine Liturgy and remain in prayer throughout our week up until we invoked Christ’s name to preach the sermon.

Preparation

If we are preaching for 30 minutes then we should spend about 3 hours preparing the sermon by study. We should be reading and studying the text primarily. Key questions to ask one’s self in this time of study are:

1) Who was the letter written to?

2) What was the context in which the letter was written?

3) When was it written? Who wrote it?

4) What are the underlying issues/concerns/problems it addresses?

5) Is there a vacuum in my preaching? Meaning is there a lack of reading the Scriptures with 1st century eyes and with 21st century questions? I do believe the Scriptures speak to us today and can guide us. Our preaching should not be in a vacuum, but speak truth to our 21st century context as Orthodox Christians in America.

These are just a few questions to ask oneself about the text. The largest question would be

“Where is Christ in this text? Where is Christ in my sermon?”

If our homiletics lack Christ in any stage then it is not worthy preaching. As much as I thoroughly disagree with Reformed/Calvinist teachings I do respect the Tradition’s strong emphasis on preaching Christ and Him crucified. Reformed theologian Charles Spurgeon once said:

The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and Him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

So in preparing for your sermon keep in mind Mr. Spurgeon’s words. All through the process keep Christ in your mind and heart. If you seek the Spirit in your sermon and pray then Christ will be seen in your sermon.

Father John writes:

This is the time to sit, to write, to read useful material. Intense study of the Scriptures, the fathers, commentaries, dictionaries; this is all standard fare. You may also select what secular material is useful for you. I’m not talking about sermonizing on the morality of Star Trek, or the symbolism of The Truman Show. I’m talking about books like the works of Milton, Dickens, contemporary books on marriage, etc. These have real value, and you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Prayer will help guide your preparation.

Preparation is also not the activity of committing a sermon or outline to memory. On our Pyramid, delivery preparation is praxis.”

In homiletics, Christ is our message, prayer is our foundation, and the Holy Spirit is our guide and source of life that gives the sermon breath. Any devices used to enhance the sermon rhetorically or theologically come after we seek the Trinity in prayer and allow the Spirit to lead and shape us as preachers.

Praxis 

This is the stage wherein we practice delivering what we have written. We may do run-throughs to make ourselves more familiar with the sermon. We decide to use a manuscript or to memorize the sermon. We may reduce the sermon manuscript to a mere outline to use. Father John writes:

Ancient classically trained orators and rhetoriticians taught themselves to speak from memory, by memorizing an outline of their speech, assigning one section of their topic to each part of their own home. As they mentally walked through their house in their mind’s eye during the speech, they recalled the topic associated, and all its ancillary points. As a result, with proper preparation, they were able to speak for great lengths of time, with precision and passion, without ever losing their place, or getting too sidetracked. They knew the path of their speech, and did not deviate very far from it.

Whatever the method used to prepare for the delivery of the message, it should not be haphazard. This is an important work. People may come out of curiosity, habit, default, obligation or even guilt, but they come back for good preaching. Visitors especially are affected by good preaching – it is what brings them back. Visitors don’t worship, if they pray, they don’t pray much, and mostly they are wondering if they are safe in your church. The right message will answer that question for them.”

Whatever we do to prepare ourselves for the actual delivering of the sermon must be done in a way that helps us in the area of diction and what Father John calls the 3 C’s:

1) Confidence- this to me is confidence not only in your ability to be a strong preacher, but confidence in what you are saying and believe. Christ Himself gained an audience because he preached and taught as one with authority (Matthew 7:29). Confidence in yourself should not be arrogance, but humble acceptance of your calling to preach and a reliance on Christ’s grace and the Spirit’s work to give your words life.

2) Clarity- this is simply speaking and delivering with clarity of thought and clarity of speech. We should not be murmuring and fumbling through our sermons as one unfamiliar with what is going on. This also means to me that we do not burden the sermon down with extra baggage. “Keep It Simple Stupid” is a good rule to follow here. Be clear. Be concise.

3) Conviction- here is where too many fall short. We act as if we truly do not believe in the words we are speaking. Our sermons should be grounded in conviction, firm conviction. We should preach with passion and conviction of heart. If we lack conviction in the homiletics department then we will not reach many with the Gospel. People are drawn to authentic conviction these days because so many lack conviction in this land of shallow wells and moral relativism. So long as our conviction is civil then we are doing right to preach with power and conviction. This goes back to preaching as Christ Himself preached.

Delivery

We read earlier from Archbishop John,

“Sermons in church should not be unctuous, abounding in archaic words, and platitudes and no artificial rhetorical devices are necessary. The preacher’s words should be direct, simple, spiritually pure and have no ‘worldly’ taint about them…”

When delivering we should step up to speak with grace, love, boldness, and conviction. We should speak words of healing, words of repentance, words of exhortation. We should avoid gimmicks, tricks, emotional manipulations, and platitudes. These are the artificial and meaningless tactics Archbishop John is condemning.

Direct.

Simple.

Spiritually pure.

These are the marks with which we should layer our delivery. Now, note this is not a suggestion to refrain from “church jargon” or “theological lingo”, but it means we break those things down and explain them to our listeners. I am not a fan of dumbing down theology and preaching to make it acceptable for those who wish to remain on milk. Now, being compassionate to those truly still needing the milk is fine. Remembering that in the process is good. However, we should not refrain from big language of theology.

In “Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them“, Thom Rainer found that strong, doctrinal preaching was the number one reason folks would attend a church again if they were unchurched. He exposes the lie that the unchurched, or even the churched, do not want deep, complex truths preached for what it is: a myth. People are hungry for deep, sound truth and doctrine. Our sermons should never ever dumb down those things. We should be

“firm in belief, but gentle in spirit; uncompromising in [our] convictions, but Christ-like in [our] demeanor.”

Father John offers these amazing hints while delivering the sermon:

1) Mention Jesus Christ by name. You’d be surprised how often this gets left out of a sermon.

2) Preach the Gospel using the simple words of scripture. I’m an English major. I learned early as an undergraduate that if you can’t express a proposition in a simple declarative sentence, you probably don’t understand it. Here are the words St. Paul used to preach the Gospel: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He died and was buried, and that He rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; and that He appeared to (many)” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). That’s the Gospel. Preach it.

3) Repetition reinforces learning.  Tell you audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.

4) Stop at the end of your sermon. Knowing when to end is even more important than knowing how to begin, so you should definitely know where you are going to end before you begin. Too often, too many preachers give two sermons when they should only give one and they lose their audience. The end of a sermon is not a new beginning. End it!”

Post Sermon Reflections

Father John writes:

Once the sermon is done, during the short walk back to the altar, a prayer of thanksgiving is in order.

Sometimes you know when you hit it out of the park. Sometimes, you know you struck out, and sometimes, you just don’t know anything. Recording your sermon, reviewing notes used, adding things you said which you did not plan; these should all be part of a quick Monday wrap up evaluation. Keep the outline or text of your sermon, listen to what you said. If it can be video recorded watch yourself preach. This is the first step of next week’s sermon: Review and evaluation.”

After preaching, we should pause and say a quick prayer of thanksgiving and pray for the seeds we planted.

Afterwards, we should stop, pause, reflect on how the entire process of that sermon went from the prayer we enveloped it in to the deliver we gave. Review notes, change things you would have said better, take out things, etc. I also highly recommend creating a filing cabinet to house your sermons or a file folder on your computer. Never throw them away nor forget about them.

Another great to do in your homiletics is to have a homiletics team. I would love to see every parish priest invest in the lives of the men in his parish who have the gifting to preach. I do not believe there is any reason to prevent laity with the gifts to preach from preaching. We should invest in these men and their lives. By having a team of trained preachers, you can get key insights and feedback from them on the sermon. This is a good thing for any preacher.

These are but a few helpful homiletical guidelines that can go a long way to benefit our preaching and our own souls. Our preaching should not be an after-thought nor should it be neglected or abused. We should take seriously the craft of preaching and the call to preach the Gospel. St. Paul said,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15).

This is a serious calling worthy of serious devotion, thought, discipline, and love.

St. John Chrysostom (whose icon is above), one of the greatest, if not the greatest, preachers of history was well-known for his sermons. He was dubbed “Golden Tongue” or “Golden Mouth”. Often his sermons would go on for hours and were well-attended, but from time-to-time he would become discouraged,

“My work is like that of a man who is trying to clean a piece of ground into which a muddy stream is constantly flowing.”

This is what preaching may be like, especially in our society. However, the wisdom of St. John realized this,

“Preaching improves me. When I begin to speak, weariness disappears; when I begin to teach, fatigue too disappears.”

No matter what do not become discouraged in your preaching. If it does not bring about the salvation of one soul (something you will never know anyways) know that preaching is a calling and that perhaps it can be for your own salvation that you were called to preach.

St. John Chrysostom pray for us sinful preachers.

Source: Orthodox Ruminations

D.Min. Questions & Answers with Fr. Sergius Halvorsen

by Fr. John A. Peck

Some time ago, I contacted Fr. John Behr at St Vladimir Seminary to ask about the dormant D.Min. program, and to inquire about the possibility of renewing it, maybe for a homiletics program, to which he responded, “It’s not dormant, it was terminated some time ago!” How happy I was to find out that SVS has indeed restarted their D.Min. program and have included a significant preaching curriculum. We contacted the director of the program, Fr. Sergius Halvorsen, and asked some basic questions to shed some more light on this program. Again, this program focuses on Advanced Preaching and Exegesis for homiletics as a part of the curriculum, so, of course, we are very interested!

Serge
Fr. Sergius Halvorsen

The SVS DMin program was dormant for awhile, and now is being re-established. Is the SVS faculty and dean supportive of this reworking of the DMin?

The DMin at St. Vladimir’s started in 1987 and was terminated in 2009 due to low enrollment. Quite simply, there were only so many Orthodox priests and chaplains within driving distance of our New York campus. In 2009, the faculty and dean suspended the program with the hope that it could be revived in the near future. When I was appointed to the faculty in July of 2012, Fr. John Behr our Dean, and Fr. Chad Hatfield, our Chancellor, expressed a very strong interest in reviving the DMin as a hybrid distance learning program.

In fact, at one of our very first meetings, they asked me to outline how the DMin could be offered using distance education.

So, this renewal of the Doctor of Ministry as a hybrid program has always been a priority for the dean and faculty of St. Vladimir’s. Over the course of the last year and a half, an incredible amount of work has been done by the Dean, the Chancellor, the Academic Dean, Dr. John Barnet, and other members of the faculty in order to obtain the approval of our accrediting body (the Association of Theological Schools) and to work out the numerous details of initiating a new program like this. They have been enthusiastically supportive and encouraging throughout all of this work.

What is the vision for this renewed program?

Our vision for the program is that it will strengthen pastoral ministry by integrating doctoral level academic work with applied pastoral praxis.

What are the goals for this new program?

Students who complete the program will: demonstrate an advanced competency in the practice of ministry in the Orthodox tradition; perform analytical and ministerial research in Bible, Patristic texts and contemporary sources; integrate advanced theological knowledge into their ministry in the local context; and communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ more effectively through all facets of their ministries.

How long is each cohort?

Each cohort will consist of 15 to 20 students who will complete the program in three years. This program consists of eight core courses and a final project. The academic calendar for the DMin has been specifically tailored to accommodate the responsibilities of parish priests. (link to proposed academic calendar) Students will complete roughly half of each course via distance learning and will complete the other half during one-week intensives at our New York campus.

What will this DMin allow the graduate to do with this degree? That is, what would you like to see graduates of this program go on to do and accomplish?

First of all, the DMin will help priests, chaplains and pastoral professionals to better fulfill their fundamental ministry of bringing the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering and are in need. More particularly, the DMin will help students to develop areas of expertise in pastoral ministry in order to serve as resources within the Orthodox Church and in society at large.

For example, I have spoken with one potential student who serves as military chaplain. He is interested in doing advanced work on an Orthodox Christian approach to spiritual and emotional healing for soldiers and their families who are suffering from the long-term effects of violent trauma and PTSD. Through work in the DMin program, this student could become an extremely valuable resource for others, and could share crucial insights through writing, blogging, preaching and speaking. My hope is that every one of our DMin students will develop his or her own particular area of expertise and will be able to share that expertise with others.

If someone does not get in on the first cohort, when will the second cohort begin?

The second cohort will begin as soon as we are able to enroll a minimum of fifteen students. Maintaining a viable community of teachers and learners is essential to the success of this program and that is why we have a minimum size for the cohort. With more than twenty students a cohort starts to become somewhat impersonal, and with fewer than about twelve it loses the dynamism that comes when students with diverse backgrounds and ministries work together. Our target number of fifteen ensures that even if a few students have to drop out over the course of the three year program, we’ll still end up with a viable cohort.

Are there PhD programs you would recommend for Orthodox clergy who wish to become expert teachers in Homiletics (as you yourself are)?

Students who are looking to become teachers of homiletics, could do very valuable work in our DMin. I am very hopeful that a few of our students will focus on homiletics in their final project. Having a DMin from St. Vladimir’s Seminary with an emphasis on preaching, would be a very good place to start if one was hoping to teach homiletics. If one is looking to do a PhD in homiletics, my best advice would be to look for a PhD advisor, before looking at programs.

The only thing more difficult than getting into a PhD program is getting out of one, and nothing is more important to the successful completion of a PhD than having an advisor you can work with. I had the tremendously good fortune to work with Dr. Charles Rice at Drew University for my PhD, but I found him through reading a book that he had written on preaching. So, to find a good PhD program in homiletics, read as much of the current literature as you can, find the scholar or scholars who are doing research in areas that interest you, and then apply to the PhD programs at their schools.

If someone has more questions, who should they call to talk to?

If someone would like to learn more about the DMin at St. Vladimir’s they can call me at 914-961-8313 x367 or send me an email at, shalvorsen@svots.edu

Any final comments you’d like prospective applicants to know?

To learn more about the program, please look at the program page on our website:

http://www.svots.edu/academics/programs/doctor-ministry

SVS Doctor of Ministry Program

St. Vlad’s Offers D.Min. With Advanced Preaching Focus

News about PreachingWell, here it is. After discussions about the dormant D.Min. program at SVS and the need for more homiletics offerings, we now have something serious and available to us. This is on a cohort basis – it won’t be available every year.

Brothers, don’t let this opportunity slide by. Tell Fr. Sergius you saw it here.

Priests, chaplains, and other professionals in ministry may now earn an accredited Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree online through a new program at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, NY. The hybrid program, which combines distance learning with one–week, on–campus intensives, is bridging a gap for students who cannot reside full time on campus. The program will begin in fall 2013, and applications now are being accepted.

“Pastors today face immense challenges,”

emphasized The Rev. Dr. J. Sergius Halvorsen, assistant professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at St. Vladimir’s and the program’s director.

“The depth and intensity of suffering and spiritual darkness in the lives of the people we serve is startling. Facing such serious challenges, there has never been a greater need for excellence in pastoral ministry.

“My hope is that the D.Min. Program at St. Vladimir’s would provide priests, chaplains, and other pastoral professionals with advanced knowledge and skills in order to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering,” noted Fr. Sergius. “It is also my hope that the program would foster deep and lasting friendships among the students and contribute to authentic spiritual and pastoral renewal. “All in all, the D.Min. Program will ‘build bridges’ in several ways: overcoming geographical distance for interested students; providing a pathway to a new level of pastoral training and academic research; and, best of all, connecting colleagues in ministry,” concluded Fr. Sergius.

St. Vladimir’s is accepting applications for the first cohort of fifteen students, who will go through the program as a community of learners that support one another academically, spiritually, and personally. The cohort will serve as an essential support network for the students during the course of the program and will model a form of collegial ministry in which pastors lift up and inspire one another in the ongoing work of building up the Body of Christ.

The D.Min. Program will integrate doctoral level academic work with applied pastoral practice, and members of the St. Vladimir’s faculty, along with Orthodox scholars from other institutions, will teach the eight core courses:

  • Advanced Preaching and Communications;
  • Bioethics for Ministry;
  • Counseling in the Parish;
  • Ministry in a Secular Age;
  • Ministry to the Sick and Dying;
  • Missiology;
  • Scripture: Exegesis for Preaching; and
  • Youth Ministry.

The final phase of the program will be a project that combines research at the doctoral level with the intentional application of pastoral theory in pastoral ministry.

Program applicants must have at least three years experience in ministry subsequent to their first theological degree; be currently serving in a position of ministry; and be capable of doing doctoral level academic work. Anyone interested in learning more about the program may contact Fr. Sergius at shalvorsen@svots.edu, or (914) 961-8313, x367.

Read more about the distance learning D.Min. Program, including technology requirements.

On The Septuagint In The New Testament

Bible scholars and students! Since most contemporary preaching is primarily either therapeutic or exegetical, especially during Lent, we offer this little list for your exegetical homilies.

These are principle examples of why the Septuagint Old Testament is the ‘official’ Old Testament of the Orthodox Church (that and the fact that the Masoretic text didn’t even exist until 1,000 a.d.). Enjoy!

Of the approximately 300 Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, approximately 2/3 of them came from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) which included the so-called ‘deuterocanonical’ books which Protestants, following Martin Luther, later removed. This is additional evidence that Jesus and the apostles viewed the Septuagint Old Testament as the Old Testament. Here are some examples:

Matt. 1:23 / Isaiah 7:14 – behold, a “virgin” shall conceive. Hebrew – behold, a “young woman” shall conceive.

Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:23 / Isaiah 40:3 – make “His paths straight.” Hebrew – make “level in the desert a highway.”

Matt. 9:13; 12:7 / Hosea 6:6 – I desire “mercy” and not sacrifice. Hebrew – I desire “goodness” and not sacrifice.

Matt. 12:21 / Isaiah 42:4 – in His name will the Gentiles hope (or trust). Hebrew – the isles shall wait for his law.

Matt. 13:15 / Isaiah 6:10 – heart grown dull; eyes have closed; to heal. Hebrew – heart is fat; ears are heavy; eyes are shut; be healed.

Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7 / Isaiah 29:13 – teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Hebrew – a commandment of men (not doctrines).

Matt. 21:16 / Psalm 8:2 – out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has “perfect praise.” Hebrew – thou has “established strength.”

Mark 7:6-8 – Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 from the Septuagint – “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

Luke 3:5-6 / Isaiah 40:4-5 – crooked be made straight, rough ways smooth, shall see salvation. Hebrew – omits these phrases.

Luke 4:18 / Isaiah 61:1 – and recovering of sight to the blind. Hebrew – the opening of prison to them that are bound.

Luke 4:18 / Isaiah 58:6 – to set at liberty those that are oppressed (or bruised). Hebrew – to let the oppressed go free.

John 6:31 / Psalm 78:24 – He gave them “bread” out of heaven to eat. Hebrew – gave them “food” or “grain” from heaven.

John 12:38 / Isaiah 53:1 – who has believed our “report?” Hebrew – who has believed our “message?”

John 12:40 / Isaiah 6:10 – lest they should see with eyes…turn for me to heal them. Hebrew – shut their eyes…and be healed.

Acts 2:19 / Joel 2:30 – blood and fire and “vapor” of smoke. Hebrew – blood and fire and “pillars” or “columns” of smoke.

Acts 2:25-26 / Psalm 16:8 – I saw…tongue rejoiced…dwell in hope.. Hebrew – I have set…glory rejoiced…dwell in safety.

Acts 4:26 / Psalm 2:1 – the rulers “were gathered together.” Hebrew – rulers “take counsel together.”

Acts 7:14 / Gen. 46:27; Deut. 10:22 – Stephen says “seventy-five” souls went down to Egypt. Hebrew – “seventy” people went.

Acts 7:27-28 / Exodus 2:14 – uses “ruler” and judge; killed the Egyptian “yesterday.” Hebrew – uses “prince” and there is no reference to “yesterday.”

Acts 7:43 / Amos 5:26-27 – the tent of “Moloch” and star of god of Rephan. Hebrew – “your king,” shrine, and star of your god.

Acts 8:33 / Isaiah 53:7-8 – in his humiliation justice was denied him. Hebrew – by oppression…he was taken away.

Acts 13:41 / Habakkuk 1:5 – you “scoffers” and wonder and “perish.” Hebrew – you “among the nations,” and “be astounded.”

Acts 15:17 / Amos 9:12 – the rest (or remnant) of “men.” Hebrew – the remnant of “Edom.”

Rom. 2:24 / Isaiah 52:5 – the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles. Hebrew – blasphemed (there is no mention of the Gentiles).

Rom. 3:4 / Psalm 51:4 – thou mayest “prevail” (or overcome) when thou art judged. Hebrew – thou might “be clear” when thou judges.

Rom. 3:12 / Psalm 14:1,3 – they “have gone wrong.” Hebrew – they are “corrupt” or “filthy.”

Rom. 3:13 / Psalm 5:9 – they use their tongues to deceive. Hebrew – they flatter with their tongues. There is no “deceit” language.

Rom. 3:13 / Psalm 140:3 – the venom of “asps” is under their lips. Hebrew – “Adder’s” poison is under their lips.

Rom. 3:14 / Psalm 10:7 – whose mouth is full of curses and “bitterness.” Hebrew – cursing and “deceit and oppression.”

Rom. 9:17 / Exodus 9:16 – my power “in you”; my name may be “proclaimed.” Hebrew – show “thee”; may name might be “declared.”

Rom. 9:25 / Hosea 2:23 – I will call my people; I will call my beloved. Hebrew – I will have mercy (love versus mercy).

Rom. 9:27 / Isaiah 10:22 – only a remnant of them “will be saved.” Hebrew – only a remnant of them “will return.”

Rom. 9:29 / Isaiah 1:9 – had not left us “children.” Hebrew – Jehova had left us a “very small remnant.”

Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6 / Isaiah 28:16 – he who believes will not be “put to shame.” Hebrew – shall not be “in haste.”

Rom. 10:18 / Psalm 19:4 – their “voice” has gone out. Hebrew – their “line” is gone out.

Rom. 10:20 / Isaiah 65:1 – I have “shown myself” to those who did not ask for me. Hebrew – I am “inquired of” by them.

Rom. 10:21 / Isaiah 65:2 – a “disobedient and contrary” people. Hebrew – a “rebellious” people.

Rom. 11:9-10 / Psalm 69:22-23 – “pitfall” and “retribution” and “bend their backs.” Hebrew – “trap” and “make their loins shake.”

Rom. 11:26 / Isaiah 59:20 – will banish “ungodliness.” Hebrew – turn from “transgression.”

Rom. 11:27 / Isaiah 27:9 – when I take away their sins. Hebrew – this is all the fruit of taking away his sin.

Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16 / Isaiah 40:13 -the “mind” of the Lord; His “counselor.” Hebrew – “spirit” of the Lord; “taught” Him.

Rom. 12:20 / Prov. 25:21 – feed him and give him to drink. Hebrew – give him “bread” to eat and “water” to drink.

Rom. 15:12 / Isaiah 11:10 – the root of Jesse…”to rule the Gentiles.” Hebrew – stands for an ensign. There is nothing about the Gentiles.

Rom. 15:21 / Isaiah 52:15 – been told “of him”; heard “of him.” Hebrew – does not mention “him” (the object of the prophecy).

1 Cor. 1:19 / Isaiah 29:14 – “I will destroy” the wisdom of the wise. Hebrew – wisdom of their wise men “shall perish.”

1 Cor. 5:13 / Deut. 17:7 – remove the “wicked person.” Hebrew – purge the “evil.” This is more generic evil in the MT.

1 Cor. 15:55 / Hosea 13:14 – O death, where is thy “sting?” Hebrew – O death, where are your “plagues?”

2 Cor. 4:13 / Psalm 116:10 – I believed and so I spoke (past tense). Hebrew – I believe, for I will speak (future tense).

2 Cor. 6:2 / Isaiah 49:8 – I have “listened” to you. Hebrew – I have “answered” you.

Gal. 3:10 / Deut. 27:26 – cursed be every one who does not “abide” by all things. Hebrew – does not “confirm” the words.

Gal. 3:13 / Deut. 21:23 – cursed is everyone who hangs on a “tree.” Hebrew – a hanged man is accursed. The word “tree” does not follow.

Gal. 4:27 / Isaiah 54:1 – “rejoice” and “break forth and shout.” Hebrew – “sing” and “break forth into singing.”

2 Tim. 2:19 / Num. 16:5 – The Lord “knows” those who are His. Hebrew – God will “show” who are His.

Heb. 1:6 / Deut. 32:43 – let all the angels of God worship Him. Hebrew – the Masoretic text omits this phrase from Deut. 32:43.

Heb. 1:12 / Psalm 102:25 – like a “mantle” … “roll them”… “will be changed.” Hebrew – “raiment”… “change”…”pass away.”

Heb. 2:7 / Psalm 8:5 – thou has made Him a little “lower than angels.” Hebrew – made Him but a little “lower than God.”

Heb. 2:12 / Psalm 22:22 – I will ” sing” thy praise. Hebrew – I will praise thee. The LXX and most NTs (but not the RSV) have “sing.”

Heb. 2:13 / Isaiah 8:17 – I will “put my trust in Him.” Hebrew – I will “look for Him.”

Heb. 3:15 / Psalm 95:8 – do not harden your hearts as “in the rebellion.” Hebrew – harden not your hearts “as at Meribah.”

Heb. 3:15; 4:7 / Psalm 95:7 – when you hear His voice do not harden not your hearts. Hebrew – oh that you would hear His voice!

Heb. 8:9-10 / Jer. 31:32-33 – (nothing about husband); laws into their mind. Hebrew – I was a husband; law in their inward parts.

Heb. 9:28 / Isaiah 10:22 – “to save those” who are eagerly awaiting for Him. Hebrew – a remnant of them “shall return.”

Heb. 10:5 / Psalm 40:6 – “but a body hast thou prepared for me.” Hebrew – “mine ears hast thou opened.”

Heb. 10:38 / Hab. 2:3-4 – if he shrinks (or draws) back, my soul shall have no pleasure. Hebrew – his soul is puffed up, not upright.

Heb. 11:5 / Gen. 5:24 – Enoch was not “found.” Hebrew – Enoch was “not.”

Heb. 11:21 / Gen. 47:31 – Israel, bowing “over the head of his staff.” Hebrew – there is nothing about bowing over the head of his staff.

Heb. 12:6 / Prov. 3:12 – He chastises every son whom He receives. Hebrew – even as a father the son in whom he delights.

Heb. 13:6 / Psalm 118:6 – the Lord “is my helper.” Hebrew – Jehova “is on my side.” The LXX and the NT are identical.

James 4:6 / Prov. 3:34 – God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Hebrew – He scoffs at scoffers and gives grace to the lowly.

1 Peter 1:24 / Isaiah 40:6 – all its “glory” like the flower. Hebrew – all the “goodliness” as the flower.

1 Pet. 2:9 / Exodus 19:6 – you are a “royal priesthood.” Hebrew – you shall be to me a “kingdom of priests.”

1 Pet. 2:9 / Isaiah 43:21 – God’s own people…who called you out of darkness. Heb. – which I formed myself. These are different actions.

1 Pet. 2:22 / Isaiah 53:9 – he “committed no sin.” Hebrew – he “had done no violence.”

1 Pet. 4:18 / Prov. 11:31 – if a righteous man “is scarcely saved.” Hebrew – if the righteous “is recompensed.”

1 Pet. 5:5 / Prov. 3:34 – God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Hebrew – He scoffs at scoffers and gives grace to lowly.

Isaiah 11:2 – this verse describes the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but the seventh gift, “piety,” is only found in the Septuagint.

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