Training New Preachers
The first part of a two-part interview with Preacher, Author & Trainer, Andrew Page
Andrew, in your book “How to Teach the Bible So That People Meet God” you talk a lot about the 3M's that every preacher needs. I assume you're not talking about Sticky Notes! What's the idea?
I called the book How to Teach the Bible so that People Meet God: the title is very deliberate. The three Ms you mention are the three things every Bible teacher needs.
First, a model. Most of us can think of one or two people whose preaching God has used in our own lives, and not just to inform us but also to help us meet God. I’m not talking about me trying to be a clone of whoever that is, but it is a huge help to have something to aim at.
Second, a method. If I’m teaching you to swim I won’t just tell you stuff like ‘Don’t breathe under water’ and ‘Wave your arms and legs around’. I’ll teach you a method of swimming, with a number of basic steps: and I mean really basic, it’ll just be doggy-paddle. But a method will get you started. After you can do doggy-paddle, you can learn more and become a better swimmer. It’s exactly the same with preaching.
Third, a mentor. By this I mean someone who gives me feedback on my preaching: they encourage me and help me to work on my weak areas. In other words it’s someone who helps me become a better Bible teacher.
I think these three Ms - a model, a method and a mentor - are what every Bible teacher needs. So these are the three main ingredients of my book.
Talking of mentors--who have been your main mentors in preaching and what do you think you've learned from them?
There have been all sorts of people who have helped me, through their comments and their prayers, to become a better Bible teacher. But I think you might actually be asking about my models for preaching. When I was starting out they were John Stott and David Jackman.
I first heard John Stott preach when I was a student. I remember thinking ‘Well, this isn't clever - everything he’s saying is in the Bible passage we’re looking at’. And I also thought, ‘But why have I never noticed that in the passage before?’ It was a supernatural event for me: I was meeting God.
I was assistant minister to David Jackman for a few years in the early 1980s. He was always faithful to the Bible and his clarity blew me away. From John Stott and from David Jackman I learnt that these two things matter.
My guess is that if I had asked them for their method they wouldn’t have been able to answer the question: they were using the gift the Spirit had given them in an instinctive way. But over the years I analysed what they were doing and asked the Lord to teach me to preach.
In your books you talk about the need to encourage and train other preachers. Is this a passion of yours? What do you think we can do to help develop new preachers?
Yes, it’s a huge passion. Over the years I've led training weekends called something like ‘How to Teach the Bible’ in the UK, Austria, Germany, France, Hungary, Russia and Sweden. ‘How to Teach the Bible so that People Meet God’ is basically that training adapted and expanded in book form.
I think it’s important to find the people who think they may have the gift of teaching. So I still do training sessions. But I am very up for working through my book with individuals. But I need to be clear: I absolutely am not trying to create Andrew Page clones! People will preach according to their style and their personality, but every Bible teacher needs to believe that the Spirit loves to use the Bible to create a supernatural encounter for the listener.
And I think it makes a massive difference to preachers just starting out if they learn a method. Of course they may well adapt it, but learning a method is a huge advantage.
Next Week: Andrew addresses the role of midweek small groups in studying the Bible
Andrew Page was a missionary in Austria for 20 years, involved with student work and pastoring a Baptist Church. He is a passionate Bible teacher, and loves helping others to preach, too. He is also the creator of the Mark Drama, in which a team of 15 Christians from a church or a CU acts out every incident in the Gospel of Mark as theatre-in-the-round. Andrew returned to the UK in 2007 and is a member of Above Bar Church, Southampton.