Accordance Blog
Jun 8, 2011 Lorinda Hoover

Seven Steps for Sermon Prep

Study This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Lorinda Hoover, a United Methodist elder in Iowa. Lorinda is currently the Stated Supply pastor of the United Presbyterian Church of Pocahontas, and will soon begin serving as the pastor of Glidden United Methodist Church.

I’ve been using Accordance for about 6 years. Over that time, I’ve gradually developed my process for using Accordance for sermon preparation, which I’ve been asked to share with you. In the interest of space, I’ve not detailed every command involved. If you’re not sure how to do any of the things I mention, please ask in the comments, and I’ll provide more information.

Step One: Setting up the workspace

I’m part of a tradition that uses the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a set of four readings (usually Old Testament, Psalm, Gospel, New Testament) for each Sunday of the Christian Year, in a three year-cycle (Years A, B, and C.) Currently we are in Year A. For each Sunday, I use a workspace with two main zones. The first zone contains four text tabs: Old Testament, Psalm, Gospel, and New Testament. These are not search tabs, but text tabs originally created by clicking on a link. I then set up the panes the way I needed. (Generally the Greek or Hebrew Text and one or two English Translations)

The second zone contains tabs for several tools I use, including: RCL-A (a User Tool from Accordance Exchange that lists the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the Sundays in Year A) and Year A Notes (a User Tool I created to take notes on the readings for the Sundays in Year A).

Each week I open the workspace from the week before, set the Text tabs to this week’s readings, and save the workspace with a new name. The Zones feature has made this a lot easier for me, since I can see both the RCL-A tool and the tab I want to change at the same time.

Step Two: Translate My Preaching Text

While the RCL has four readings, I usually focus on only one reading for my sermon. Each week I translate the original language text (Hebrew or Greek) into English. These translations go into a special User Notes file. I set up the User Note Edit window to cover the English text pane in my main workspace, so I’m not relying on the English translation. If I need help with a word’s meaning, I can triple-click on it, and my chosen lexicon’s entry on the word will appear in my second zone.

As I’m translating, I highlight any words or phrases I want to explore more thoroughly later.

Step Three: Word Studies

If there are words that seem particularly important to me, I will do a word study. I have favorite workspaces set up for both Hebrew and Greek words. These workspaces search both the Biblical texts and my primary Greek or Hebrew Tools. I simply select the word I’m interested in, then amplify to the favorite workspace. I update my Year A Notes User Tool with any significant findings.

Step Four: Repeated words

Some weeks I’m struck by the repetition of one or more words in a reading. When this happens, I use Accordance to identify all the repeated words in a reading. When doing this, it’s important to remember to set the range in the Range drop-down, and not in the search box. [ed: For the differences between the range pop-up and the RANGE command, see this recent post] I have a special range called “temp” that I set to the current passage I’m working with. This way I’m not cluttering up my range list with all the lectionary readings over the course of a year.

For Greek searches, I keep the search syntax in a saved clipboard (using a third-party utility) and paste it into a new Greek search tab. For Hebrew searches, I open a saved workspace with the syntax for a search pre-entered. (My third-party clipboard utility doesn’t correctly handle the right-to-left direction necessary for Hebrew searches)

Again, I make notes in my User Tool.

Step Five: Other Accordance Resources

I usually check other resources within Accordance like the NET Notes, Comfort, and more recently the NIGTC commentary, adding notes to my User Tool as I go.

Step Six: Non-Accordance Resources

I typically also go to several on-line study resources and sometimes consult print resources. I enter notes from those into my User Tool as well. For on-line resources, I include a hyperlink to the web page, so I can return to the original if I need to.

Step Seven: Write the sermon

I write my sermon in NeoOffice. I consult Accordance as I go, but I don’t try to write my sermons in Accordance itself.


 

Jun 1, 2011 Jeremy Writebol

The Pastor's Study: Tools for the Craftsman

Study This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Jeremy Writebol, Adult Ministries Pastor of Santa Rosa Bible Church in Santa Rosa, California.

Every craftsman has his own unique set of tools that helps him accomplish his task and produce quality work for the people he serves. For the preacher the tools we have for preaching are the books that exist in our libraries. One of the great benefits of living in such a technologically advanced age is that we now have access to thousands of books on our computers. As someone who teaches and preaches weekly I want to have the best tools available to help me craft sermons that not only inform the head, but more importantly move the heart to respond in faith to God. Accordance is my favorite software tool for studying the Scriptures. It gives me access to the best scholarship on the Bible so I can carefully and skillfully plan and prepare sermons.

When preparing a sermon, the pastor should always be working with the text of Scripture first and foremost—something the Accordance interface actually encourages you to do. Yet at some point in your study it is wise to consult the work of other careful interpreters. Reading a variety of good commentaries is like sitting among a community of scholars and pastors who are eager to help inform and shape your sermons. One of the great features of Accordance is that it offers not only a large quantity of commentaries and references to interact with, but a deep quality of commentaries as well.

I like to break my commentaries down into three major categories:

  • Exegetical
  • Homiletical
  • Illustrative

 

Exegetical Commentaries

The exegetical commentaries in my library help me weigh out and work through the grammar, syntax and original languages of the text. They serve to help me "get it right" in terms of background, meaning and form. I use and am helped greatly by the New American Commentary (NAC) series. Other commentaries that are helpful for exegesis also include the Word Biblical Commentary, Pillar Commentary series and The New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series. Each of these will give you great information on the depth and structure of the text and its original meaning. Each of these also makes different assumptions about its readers' level of scholarship. If you know Greek and Hebrew well then the Word Biblical and NIGTC commentaries will provide the depth you need. If you are not as well versed in the original languages then the Pillar and NAC Commentaries help unpack the original languages and meaning of the text.

Homiletical Commentaries

Once I have checked my exegetical work and made sure it is consistent with the Scriptures, I then move to my homiletical commentaries. These are usually smaller commentaries or one volume sets that help me frame my preaching outline, get me to think about some great connecting points, and point me to applicational understandings of the text I can use to help my people.

Among these I have found the Tyndale Commentary Series to be one of the best. Others here that are helpful are the Expositor's Bible Commentary Series and The Bible Speaks Today series. Older commentaries like Calvin and Matthew Henry are also very helpful.

I should note here that the NIV Application Commentary Series is a bit of a hybrid that stands between both the "exegetical" and "homiletical" fields. It is very helpful. It can at times be brief in getting through the exegetical work, yet provides some excellent contemporary applications of the text for today.

Illustrative Commentaries

Finally, once I have done my exegetical study and framed a homiletical outline, I want to put some flesh and bones on the sermon by way of application and illustration. Accordance again is a helpful tool here. Accordance allows pastors to build their own user tool of text that they can then sort and search however they like. This is a great way to keep your illustrations and applications personally relevant. I like to highlight books that I read on my Amazon Kindle and then copy the text file into my Accordance user tool. This growing database of comments and topics I am highlighting then becomes a resource I can mine for sermon illustrations and quotes. Accordance also has modules of quotes and sayings that are useful for illustrations.

Finally, it should be noted that while commentaries are helpful, they are merely tools to assist in the work of preparing and delivering a sermon. They can be used in the process of digging into the text, and they facilitate the work of constructing the sermon, but they cannot replace the craftsmanship of the pastor who wrestles with the text and applies it to the needs of his congregation. Thankfully, Accordance makes it possible for us to have a huge library of excellent commentaries right at our fingertips.


 

May 26, 2011 David Lang

Taming the User Tool Edit window

Yesterday, pastor Wes Allen showed us how he records his observations and collects his thoughts using Accordance's User Tool feature. Wes explained that doing so enables him to stay focused on the text rather than constantly switching between Accordance and a word processor. In response to that post, another user pointed out the following problem:

I follow roughly the same pattern, but I work on a monitor of limited size and therefore I end up having to keep switching to the User Tool edit window, which isn't much better than switching to a seperate text edit program. (Actiually, the separate program ends up being better as I can quickly switch to it by clicking it's icon in the dock). I would love for that edit window to be able to live in a pane so I could jot quick notes while I read.

Someone else then offered the helpful suggestion that he use the keyboard shortcut command-` to cycle between open windows. While that will certainly do the trick, I want to address the first user's request that the Edit window "live in a pane so [he] could jot quick notes." If you're aware of how the Edit window works, you can already do that.

First, let's begin with a simple workspace containing a Search window with my passage of study and an additional pane for my notes on that passage. In addition to that, I have a User Tool open in a separate zone. I'll use the User Notes pane to jot down notes on the text of each verse I study, and I'll use the User Tool as a place to gather and organize my thoughts. Picking up where we left off in our series on finding repeated words in a passage, I'm brainstorming ideas for a sermon which explores the frequent repetition of the word "house" in 2 Samuel 11.

EditTaming1

You can see that I've already recorded some notes on the passage and some ideas in the User Tool. Now I want to look at each occurrence of the word "house" in this passage, record my observations about how it is used, and brainstorm how it will fit into the structure of my sermon. In verse 2, I see that the HCSB speaks of David walking on the roof of his "palace," but I've discovered that "palace" translates the Hebrew phrase, "house of the king." I want to jot that down in my notes, and since I already have a note on verse 2, I simply want to add some text to that existing note. I could click in verse 2 to select it and then use the keyboard shortcut command-U to open the Edit window for that verse, but it's just as easy to click in my user note and begin typing. Doing so will automatically open the Edit window directly above the User Note pane.

EditTaming2

Here you can see that I began typing at the end of my note on verse 2 and the Edit window has opened automatically. Accordance keeps it directly above the user note pane so it doesn't obscure my text or my User Tool. I simply jot down my observation and hit Enter to update the note.

A couple of tips at this point. First, I wanted to add a couple of returns after the end of my note to start a new paragraph, but clicking in the note pane and hitting the Return key will not automatically open the Edit window. That's because hitting Return in most Accordance windows will perform whatever search you've entered. In order to make it clear to Accordance that I want to open the Edit window, I simply type a space before hitting the Return key. I end up with an unnecessary space at the end of the first paragraph of my note, but so what? It's certainly worth the convenience of bringing up the Edit window as I type.

Second, once I'm done typing, I can update the note in a couple of ways. If I use command-S to save the note, the changes I've made will be saved, but the Edit window will remain open. Accordance is assuming that I may still have more I want to type after I save. If, however, I hit the Enter key on the keyboard, Accordance will update the note and close the Edit window so that I'm right back in my main workspace.

Now that I've recorded the observation that David saw Bathsheba from the roof of his "house," I want to start a list in my User Tool of all the "house" references in 2 Samuel 11. Again, I could click in my User Tool and use command-U to open the Edit window, or I can just click where I want to add text and begin typing. I want to add a couple returns to the end of the User Tool so I'll once again use my space-before-return trick.

EditTaming3

Now, here we can see that where the User Note Edit window opens directly over the User Notes pane, the User Tool Edit window opens wherever you last left it. I'm not sure why that is and I wonder if we should change it, but until we do, you can always place it directly over your User Tool yourself. Once you do, it will continue to open in that same place every time you edit that User Tool.

EditTaming4

Once again, if I remember to hit the Enter key as soon as I'm finished, the Edit window will close and I'll only have my workspace to deal with. When I need to add to my User Tool again I'll simply type in it and the Edit window will reappear. Using this workflow, there's no need to use a keyboard shortcut to toggle between multiple windows.


 

May 25, 2011 Accordance Bible Software

The Pastor's Study: Gathering Thoughts in User Tools

Study This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Wes Allen, the pastor of Central Baptist Church of Riverton-Palmyra in New Jersey. Wes originally posted this to his own blog and gave us permission to repost it here.

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by Darin at Accordance to write a blog post on how I use this wonderful tool for my sermons. To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to accept the invitation. I consider myself neither a scholar nor an Accordance power user—and I figured I’d just end up embarrassing myself. After some brain-storming about how I use Accordance, however, I suggested that I write about my use of user tools as I create my sermons. Darin thought that was a wonderful idea, and so here I am!

Just a short note before I begin. I’m writing this post in blogsy, using a bluetooth keyboard for the first time! Yay!

Mapping out a preaching schedule

If you want to find out how I use Accordance to create my sermons, I need to shed a little light on my general work-flow. My sermon-creation process actually begins in the Spring of any given year, when I take a look at the congregation and wonder what we might need to concentrate on during the coming year. I also solicit the congregation for any “itches” that they may have wanted scratched as they’ve been reading the Bible (I never promise answers, by the way, just some thoughts that might helpful). Then, in late July and early August, I map out a year of Sundays and put in the year’s lectionary readings for Advent and Lent (and sometimes Easter). This allows me to focus on a theological season in worship, while simultaneously giving me some space to do extra reading or study for the next “original” series. Once the liturgical readings are put into my calendar, I figure out how many weeks I would have to cover any topic that folks from Central feel a particular desire to cover. I then pick my Scripture readings for the series and insert them (along with a corresponding reading from the testament not being directly used for the sermon). I plug these into their appropriate weeks and by mid-August I’ve got a worship map for the coming year (which I then put in a dropbox for people to reference).Wes-2

Initial Set-up

Now let’s get to Accordance. By the time I’m sitting down to start creating a sermon I’ve already got a path laid out for the coming year. My first step when preparing a sermon series is to create a new user tool for that series, and then put it in a folder in my library window corresponding to the current year (see the screen shot). These user tools become helpful references for me as I work out the sermon for any week. I then open the texts I need to study for that series, along with whatever user tool I’m using, and save that workspace for opening later (I have two typical work-spaces, one for Greek and one for Hebrew, I simply save the altered configurations for each series).

Weekly Workflow

My work-flow on a “normal” week is something like this:

On Tuesday I sit down with my current user-tool open in an editor window and translate several passages from my worship map—each set under a heading for that particular week. I don’t claim to be a great scholar, but I enjoy seeing where my particular colloquialisms differ from the standard translations, and I also like to learn how idioms are being rendered by English translations when I’m stuck (which, admittedly, is often). I don’t go for “pretty”; this is for my personal reflection. I work ahead because when the inevitable “crazy week” happens, I’ve at least got the texts working their way around in my head and heart.

Wes-1

On Wednesday I sit down with my translation, and corresponding English and Greek Bibles, and write out a short commentary on the passage for that week. Up until recently, this has been done in the same user tool as my translations, under the sub-heading “structure and commentary” (really more “commentary”—I’m only an acquaintance with structural analysis). With the advent of iOS syncing, however, I’ve begun doing this commentary in user notes for the first time. It’s been an interesting switch—I certainly write more now! In my commentary I look for interesting word-pictures, repeated phrases, thoughts, and Biblical allusions or quotes. In this section I will even do some cultural and historical analysis if I have anything to say on a particular matter.

After I write my running commentary I begin another section in the user tool under the sub-heading “thoughts.” This is where I write out my particular take on the passage for the current sermon. It’s where I highlight for myself the places where I want the “stone” of the sermon to skip on the “water” of the text. Sometimes there’s a lot I want to cover; sometimes there’s only a couple of things I feel we need to highlight. These thoughts become important when I finally sit down on Thursday or Friday and write out my manuscript (using Google Docs, but that’s another blog post). It’s especially nice to be able to go back and reference my user tools when I cover a passage again for another sermon. The search features for Accordance make it easy to scan my user tools for previous times I may have covered a particular passage!

Advantages of Using a User Tool

I used to do this work-flow switching between a word processor and my Bible Software—it got tedious. Switching between “modes” of translating, searching, and writing proved to be a big distraction for me. User tools, however, allow me to keep my focus with the text when I’m studying—exactly where it should be.