Review of the Pastorum Series: Part Two

Pastorum Series Collection (7 vols.) by Elliot Ritzema, Jeffrey E. Miller Logos Bible Software 2012

In my last post I examined  Elliot Ritzema’s resources that are part of the new Pastorum Series Collection from Logos Bible Software. In this post, I will look at Jeffrey Miller’s resources and how his and Ritzema’s books work together.

Jeffrey Miller is the author of Hazards of Being A Man,  co-author of Zondervan’s Dictionary of Bible and Theology Words and A New Reader’s Lexicon to the Greek New Testament and has been a contributing editor on three commentaries. Additionally he has 11 years of pastoral ministry experience so he understands the pressure of having to write sermons week after week. In the Study, Apply, Share guides which are included in this collection, Miller offers sound exegetical advice and helpful hints on how to make the Bible meaningful to your congregation.

In this collection, Miller looks at five New Testament books: Mark, LukePhilippians, Hebrews, James.  The Study, Apply, Share guides divide each of these biblical books into pericopes and gives exegetical hints (Study), provides two possible applications (Apply) and two creative ideas for presenting this passage (share). So if you were looking at Study, Apply, Share: Luke you would see a series of questions which help you dig deeper into the text. Here’s a look at Luke 3:1-20 (I chose this because it coincides with the Lectionary text for Advent C3):

Luke 3.1-20

Each of these questions link to different resources in Logos. As you can see from the above example, many of Miller’s ‘go to’ commentaries are not in my personal Logos library (of the above, I only have the Word Biblical Commentary). If I do click on the questions with a ‘lock’ I get a splash page in Logos which directs me to the Logos product page that corresponds to that resource (for purchase). While I can’t buy everything that Logos suggests,  Miller’s questions are helpful for digging into the text and I can easily follow his hints by cross referencing the passage comments in other commentaries (which I do own). Granted, those who have a more comprehensive library than I  will be able to accomplish more, more efficiently.

Miller highlights two possible preaching themes which offer guidance on how this passage may be applied. Here is a look at  the ‘Apply’ section for Luke 3:1-20:

Luke 3.1-20 Apply

These themes help preachers frame what they are to say, providing the ‘big idea’ as they craft their message.  If I were preaching this passage, I might use one of these themes to give me a general direction (provided my study, didn’t direct me another way). The suggested applications answers the ‘so what?’ question. Our exploration of John the Baptist should lead us to question our own hypocrisy and the need for preparation. Miller helps hone in on what it means to live out the truth presented in this passage. Other passages would yield  different themes and applications.

Finally the ‘Share’ section presents creative suggestions for sharing this with the congregation in the worship service. As with the application, Miller relates this to the same two preaching themes:

Luke 3.1-20 Share

This section has creative activities which involve the congregation (as in the first suggestion above). Sometimes these are suggestions for particular pastoral duties (i.e.  preaching an evangelistic message, holding a baptismal service, etc).  This is the section I think I will get the most use of.  Miller gives some great suggestions on how we can make this passage come alive for congregants.

Other passages also include full color graphics which illuminate an aspect of the message or book being studied. These resources (Luke and the other books) are  time savers which provide hints, suggestions and ideas for sermon preparation and delivery.  Thankfully, Miller stops short of writing  the sermons for pastors. Obviously for pastors to preach well, they need to sit under the text themselves, study and hear from God what he may be saying to that particular congregation at that particular time. Nothing that Miller says short circuits that, but he does help preachers listen well to the text, and get the point before they start communicating.

So how do the Study, Apply, Share resources integrate with 300 Quotations for Preachers and 400 Prayers for Preachers? All of the resources in the Pastorum Series Collection are tagged by preaching theme and by passage. So for example, a search of the Preaching Theme ‘Hypocrisy’  will bring up this quotation from John Bunyan which a preacher may use to illustrate a point in his message:

I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad; and I know what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion, as the white of an egg is of savour.… Thus say the common people that know him, “A saint abroad, and a devil at home.”

300 Quotations for Preachers, ed. Elliot Ritzema (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).

This prayer Peter Ainslie might be prayed in the sermon or as part of pastoral prayers (perhaps before communion):

O Healer of souls, purge me of the leaven of hypocrisy and teach me the holiness of sincerity, frankness, honesty and courtesy. You have shown me the nobility of faith, and in my secret moments let me be busy in learning the principles of your kingdom, fastening them to my heart, that I may not fail in practicing them when I am tested. Open my eyes to the sacred trust that you have laid upon me, and let me know that all fruitfulness is the work of your grace, for I am only a steward awaiting my Lord’s return, to whom belongs my affection and my life. Amen.

400 Prayers for Preachers, ed. Elliot Ritzema (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).

A search by passage would also yield a prayer from Anselm of Canterbury and an incisive quote from Augustine.  So for any given passage, there may be several prayers and quotes which can be correlated to Miller’s material.

As an entire collection, these resources are a tremendous help to the overworked preacher. Miller’s resources are different from Ritzema’s but they compliment each other well. Miller helps preachers delve into the Bible, study deeply and present relevant messages. Ritzema’s resources give preachers and worship planners a means of introducing the congregation to significant voices from Church history. Taken together they help pastors and worship leaders plan Sunday worship in a cohesive way.  I happily recommend this resource and believe that preachers will make good use of it.

(Notice of material connection: I received this resource from Logos Bible Software in exchange for my honest review).

Review of the Pastorum Series: Part One

Pastorum Series Collection (7 vols.) by Elliot Ritzema, Jeffrey E. Miller Logos Bible Software 2012

It is my privilege to  review the new Pastorum Series Collection from Logos Bible Software. Logos Bible Software makes the most comprehensive Bible software on the market and they’re always thinking of new resources to add to their library and creative ways they can help lay people, pastors and students get the most out of the Bible.  Here are resources for pastors that will save time and add depth to your preaching and your worship service.

The Pastorum Series help pastors (and other worship planners) as they prepare sermons and plan Sunday worship.  This collection promises to jump-start sermon preparation time and give some creative suggestions for delivery and application. The seven books in this collection include:

  • 400 Prayers for Preachers, with Slides
  • 300 Quotations for Preachers, with Slides
  • Study, Apply, Share: Mark
  • Study, Apply, Share: Luke
  • Study, Apply, Share: Philippians
  • Study, Apply, Share: Hebrews
  • Study, Apply, Share: James

Elliot Ritzema edits two books, one gathering quotations, the other prayers from the Christian tradition . Jeffrey Miller compiles sermon guides which help you delve deeply into the passage and focus delivery. I will look at Miller’s resources  in my next post. Here I want to take a close look at what Ritzema’s quotation and prayer collections add to worship planning.  Both of his resources denote that they are for ‘preachers’ but worship leaders and anyone who has significant input into worship planning can also benefit from these resources.  I know Elliot personally (you can find a link to his blog on the right) which makes me a little biased, but I have tried to assess these resources based on their usefulness for church life.

Can I Quote You On That?

Proverbs 25:11 says that, “a word aptly spoken is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver.” In 300 Quotations for Preachers (with Slides) Ritzema  has collected a number of apt words from across  the Christian tradition.  There are theological voices as diverse as Augustine and James Arminius, patristic and occasional pagans, medieval theologians like Anselm and Bernard of Clairvaux and Puritans like Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter and John Owen. And more!  Each of the quotations is paired with a relevant scripture passages and suggested preaching themes.  Additionally, there are also slides  included which could be copied and saved (or just cut and pasted) straight into your presentation software and used on Sunday morning (you can also send it right to your PowerPoint).

Here is a screenshot of  this resource  in Logos with the accompanying slide:

300 Quotations
Kempis Slide

Unlike print quotation collections, Ritzema does  not repeat quotations under every relevant theme (these resources are fully searchable, so that would be redundant).  I am still using Logos 4 and  could search this resource using the Logos search tool, and the ‘cited by’ tool  pulled up particular scripture passages. However, in Logos 5 this  resources (and the prayer collection below) is further integrated into the Logos ecosystem. In the Sermon Starter Guide, you can find  resources and quotations that relate to  preaching theme and scripture passages (one more reason why I should just go ahead and update).

. . .The Words to Pray

Readers of this blog will know that I love prayer collections and occasionally share prayers here. especially as they relate to the liturgical calendar. The saints of old have a lot  of wisdom to impart and their words draw us into deeper communion with God. Like 300 Quotations, 400 Prayers For Preachers (with Slides)  is remarkable for the breadth of material that Ritzema draws on.  There are prayers from the Bible, from Patristic sources, from medieval saints and orthodox liturgies, from Protestant Reformers and Nineteenth Century Evangelicals. No matter what your theological tradition is, you will find prayers which deeply resonate with you and your church.

While  Ritzema culls together diverse voices, these prayers were selected  specifically for use in worship.   Each of  the prayers are 100-150 words long (or shorter) and are paired with pertinent scriptures and preaching themes. There are prayers that call us  to worship, prayers which focus on theological themes, prayers that address particular events in the life of the church (i.e. Baptism, prayers before communion, prayers for consecration of buildings or leaders, etc.). The prayers come with an accompanying slide which reproduces a significant phrase from the prayer.

Because seeing is believing here is a screenshot of a prayer from Richard Baxter, and the accompanying slide:

400 Prayers Baxter

Baxter slide

My Thoughts:

I liked both of these resources especially for the breadth and depth I found here. Often Christian quote books have quotes of dubious origin which are basically just a Christian overlay of motivational posters.  In choosing to draw on the deep well of the Christian history, Ritzema has collected wise words and beautiful prayers which will enrich your church life. Pastors and other leaders who plan Sunday worship will find these a rich resource, particularly if they already are using Logos as they prepare for Sundays.

My small wish is that these quotes and prayers were also tagged according to the liturgical calendar as well.  As these resources are made to augment the liturgy (whatever your church normally does in a worship service is the liturgy), it seems like the logical next step. Of course with scripture passages included, you can relate these prayers to the Lectionary so liturgical churches can still make ready use of these resources as well.

My next post will look deeper at Jeffrey Miller’s resources and make some comments on the collection as a whole.

(Notice of material connection: I received this resource from Logos in exchange for my honest review).