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Pastors: How Does Bible Software "Improve" Your Sermons


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#1 David Lang

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 10:20 AM

This question is for all you pastors, preachers, and speakers:

I often see pastors recommend Accordance and other Bible programs by saying something like, "It has really helped improve my sermons."

I understand why someone who speaks regularly would say something like that. After all, delivering the most effective message is your primary goal and the main reason you buy any Bible study tool. What I'm curious to know is how you understand your sermons to be improved by your use of Bible software in general and Accordance in particular.

Is it that you can talk more about the underlying Greek and Hebrew? Include more quotes from great theologians or commentaries? Get a better handle on the passage as a whole so that your exegesis stems from a deeper understanding? Find good images, maps, and other visuals to include in a Keynote slide show? In short, what do you mean by "improved"?

Also, how do you measure the improvement in your sermons? Is it that more people compliment the sermon on the way out the door? Do you get more follow-up questions from people? Does it seem like they're "getting it" a little bit more? In other words, as best you can determine, does your congregation/audience think your sermons are "improved"? How do you know?

By the way, I'm asking these questions in the hope it will help us learn how better to serve you pastors and teachers.
Sincerely,
David Lang
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#2 Timothy Jenney

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 11:12 AM

I used Accordance for many years as both a pastor and professor before I joined the company. The biggest way that it changed my life was "portability."

No matter how great a collection of texts and tools I had, they could only be one place at a time. If they were at the office, I couldn't use them at home—and vice versa. No way was I going to haul all those books home for a weekend or away for a vacation where I needed to do just a bit more work on my syllabus/sermon.

Accordance freed me—and when it came time to switch locations, all I had to do was put my laptop in my briefcase and I was good to go.

Have I mentioned I now have lots of books for sale…? :D
Blessings,
"Dr. J"

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#3 Mary Hinkle Shore

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 12:03 PM

My one-word answer would be "connections." I offer an example.

At one point, Jesus reflects on the cost of discipleship by asking, "Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build, but was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30, NRSV). The fear of ridicule seems to be the motivator for counting the cost. You will want to be able to finish what you start.

In sermon preparation, Bible software helps me find information about something like that word, "ridicule." Where else does it show up? At this point, I have no idea if research will pay off in sermon fodder at all. I'm just curious, and so with one or two mouse clicks, I search on the Greek word, ἐμπαίζω. What I find is that almost everywhere else this word appears in the New Testament, it refers to what will happen or what does happen to Jesus on the cross. People mock him. "He saved others; he cannot save himself." The word is used to such an extent in the context of the cross that that context finds its way back to my reflection on the parable.

Is Jesus like the guy who didn't do his math right before starting on that tower? Is he the neighbor with all the big ideas, whose yard is usually just a mass of plywood, mud and tarps? (Does the church every look like that?) Did Jesus start something he couldn't finish, or does "finishing" this project look different from what we expected? Did Jesus miscalculate, or did he count the cost and decide to pay it?

At this point, I've done a few minutes of work. I don't have a sermon yet, and I would not even want to start one without spending more time with the text and context of the parable. However, thanks to the simplest of word searches, I have a connection between two stories from the gospels, and that connection between texts is worth exploring further. With almost every text I read toward preaching, software makes some relationship like this within the scripture easier to see.
Mary Hinkle Shore
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Luther Seminary
St. Paul, Minnesota
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#4 Timothy Jenney

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 01:30 PM

My one-word answer would be "connections." I offer an example.

At one point, Jesus reflects on the cost of discipleship by asking, "Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build, but was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30, NRSV). The fear of ridicule seems to be the motivator for counting the cost. You will want to be able to finish what you start.

In sermon preparation, Bible software helps me find information about something like that word, "ridicule." Where else does it show up? At this point, I have no idea if research will pay off in sermon fodder at all. I'm just curious, and so with one or two mouse clicks, I search on the Greek word, ἐμπαίζω. What I find is that almost everywhere else this word appears in the New Testament, it refers to what will happen or what does happen to Jesus on the cross. People mock him. "He saved others; he cannot save himself." The word is used to such an extent in the context of the cross that that context finds its way back to my reflection on the parable.

Is Jesus like the guy who didn't do his math right before starting on that tower? Is he the neighbor with all the big ideas, whose yard is usually just a mass of plywood, mud and tarps? (Does the church every look like that?) Did Jesus start something he couldn't finish, or does "finishing" this project look different from what we expected? Did Jesus miscalculate, or did he count the cost and decide to pay it?

At this point, I've done a few minutes of work. I don't have a sermon yet, and I would not even want to start one without spending more time with the text and context of the parable. However, thanks to the simplest of word searches, I have a connection between two stories from the gospels, and that connection between texts is worth exploring further. With almost every text I read toward preaching, software makes some relationship like this within the scripture easier to see.



Oooo, that's good!
Blessings,
"Dr. J"

Timothy P. Jenney, Ph. D.
"Lighting the Lamp" Host and Producer

#5 Outis

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 05:32 AM

This question is for all you pastors, preachers, and speakers:

I often see pastors recommend Accordance and other Bible programs by saying something like, "It has really helped improve my sermons."

I understand why someone who speaks regularly would say something like that. After all, delivering the most effective message is your primary goal and the main reason you buy any Bible study tool. What I'm curious to know is how you understand your sermons to be improved by your use of Bible software in general and Accordance in particular.



I had a professor who once said: "Men, do whatever you can to slow down!" What he meant is that the time you spend in your text studies and private devotional growth is well-spent. There are many thing that will compete to take this time away from you. But it still doesn't change the fact that in order to share the words that proclaim Jesus, you have to know them.

This is where Accordance comes in. It saves time so that you can spend time studying. The same could be said of other software. But in Accordance it is most true:

1) instead of copying your notes down in hard-copy, you can put them into your user notes. And with a little effort, you can have them spaced and ready for your own comments.

2) Those notes are there anytime you do a text study for a sermon or work for a bible study in the future.

3) instead of opening up BDAG or HALOT to the word you are looking for, you can search those tools for the instances where those words are reference, saving LOTS of time. You might not agree all the time where the lexicon or grammer puts the word. But, it will cause you to grow in your language ability.

All of this doesn't take the work of being an exegete away. You still have to ask those questions "why is this in emphatic position here?" and "what detail is this relativische anknüpfung adding here?" No timeline, atlas or commentary will be able to do this work for you if you haven't been trained well at your Seminary. But Accordance will help you carve out the time to do the work you need to get done.
Pastor Steve Bauer

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pastorbauer--> at <--gmail.com

sic fatvs nocti se miscvit atrae...

#6 David Lang

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 01:32 PM

I really appreciate those who have responded so far, but surely there are more pastors frequenting these forums who would be willing to give their feedback? I'm not asking for a pat on the back, but for a sense of how you think Bible software helps you deliver a better end-product (your sermon) and what that better-end product looks like. Anyone else willing to add their perspective?
Sincerely,
David Lang
Accordance Developer
http://www.accordancebible.com

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#7 Dennis Hesselbarth

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 04:59 PM

Like most pastors, I only have a limited amount of time for sermon preparation. Accordance allows me to quickly go deep in exegesis, because Greek and Hebrew tools are quickly accessed rather than thumbing through lexicons and linguistic keys and so on. The links to other tools means I can quickly see what a commentator said, how another translation handled the text, and so on. Being many years out of seminary, my original language skills are rusty enough that doing my own translation or looking at grammatical structure would be painfully laborious and time consuming. Accordance allows me to zoom past the basics (tense, mood, voice, etc) and focus on the implications of the grammar for meaning. Then, the search and parallels tools allow me to quickly look at other usages and other texts dealing with the same issue. I am really hooked on the parallels tool. It takes me places I'd never think of going.

All this means that I can rather painlessly and quickly get a good handle on the text and it's meaning. I have a sense of confidence that I am handling the Word accurately as I continue on the process of crafting a message. If I had to do all this work out of reference books, I wouldn't do enough. Not enough time. I'd end up hoping a commentator I read addressed the pertinent exegetical issues.

This isn't unique to Accordance, but because I project the passages I'm using during the sermon and quote passages in written comments, being able to copy and paste passages saves so much time. I can project how different translations render a passage. That way my people can see for themselves.

I ditto one other comment about portability. I can throw my laptop in a bag and no matter where I am, I can work on a sermon. Most of my tools are with me... Now if only my congregation would spring for 4 or 5 more Accordance commentary sets, I'd be really set! ;)




#8 James Tucker

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:52 PM

I really appreciate those who have responded so far, but surely there are more pastors frequenting these forums who would be willing to give their feedback? I'm not asking for a pat on the back, but for a sense of how you think Bible software helps you deliver a better end-product (your sermon) and what that better-end product looks like. Anyone else willing to add their perspective?


Does this inquiry also encompass the research and writing of Exegetical Papers?

#9 David Lang

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 09:44 AM

I'm certainly opening to hearing about the writing of exegetical papers. Sure.
Sincerely,
David Lang
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#10 DavidDoyle

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 07:22 AM

I've been pondering what I wanted to say here for a few days. I could cite all kinds of things like having all my resources literally on my desktop, or making sure that I check more than one reference work when I'm jumping down a rabbit hole, but the thing that has had the greatest impact for me over the years is this - using Bible software lets me use my time efficiently and so I can bring far more depth to my sermons.

I try to carve out 15 hours a week for sermon preparation. Before I used Bible software I had 15 hours and after I became proficient in using Accordance (and others, too, I'll admit) I still have 15 hours a week for sermon preparation. My schedule just doesn't permit me more time to sit and read and ponder and pray. (Actually, it's probably good that my schedule doesn't permit more as I'd be producing journal articles instead of sermons!). What the Bible software allows me to do is to go deep in the time I have. When I feel the need to research a particular word - click, click, click and I'm reading - I don't have to drive to the church where the particular reference work is. When I think I need more background to make sure I'm in context - again a few clicks.

I also use Accordance's window and tab structure to have resources handy. One window has 8 english translations; another a set of Greek tools, an ESV Study Bible Window with text and notes, a window with text and my most used commentaries, etc. Because Accordance runs so fast I'm frequently switching to a new window context and bang I'm there at the speed of thought. (Have you ever taken the time to go find a reference book, bring it back to your desk, open it and ask 'Why did I get this out?' Hardly every happens with Accordance!

I must also confess that the zoom feature of Accordance has delighted me on multiple occasions. Toward the end of the day, when my eyes are tired and itchy, I hit that button a couple of times and bang - big text for tired eyes! Try doing that with a print book.

So, if preaching a sermon is like serving a meal, Accordance allows me the time to prepare it properly rather than having to rush and skip stuff.

Dave Doyle

#11 Timothy Jenney

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 08:09 AM

Now if only my congregation would spring for 4 or 5 more Accordance commentary sets, I'd be really set! ;)


I wish more congregations understood the importance of providing yearly book budgets for their pastors and, yes, today that often means software "book" resources. It's not just that in the short run better resources mean better sermons, but in the long run, spiritual leaders must keep growing if they are to keep leading. I know of nothing that produces spiritual maturity like deep-level Bible study. It is the transforming power of God's Word that "renews our mind(s)" (Rom. 12:1f).

Let me encourage those of you who are pastors to educate their congregations/boards in this regard. It will not only be a blessing to you, but all of those in spiritual leadership that follow you.
Blessings,
"Dr. J"

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#12 Tom Childers

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 10:43 AM

Using Bible software, specially Accordance Bible Software, is a great confidence builder, not only in the preparation but also in the presentation of lessons and sermons. The ability to search all of one's resources gives a sense that one has been thorough in preparation. The ability to copy and paste Bible verses into Keynote with the assurance that there are no typos lessens stress. (Yes, some preachers still hand type their Bible verses, and yes, they are often riddled with typos). The ability to copy and paste customized great looking maps into a Keynote presentation removes a lot of the stress of finding a map of that remote biblical place. To stand before a Bible class and within thirty seconds after Accordance is started, a customized dual screen - one for the presenter and another for audience - is ready to use is a great confidence builder. No crashes, no slow downs; just smooth navigation with no distractions and full attention to the message at hand. Accordance Bible Software is my confidence builder.

#13 clintschnekloth

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 03:23 PM

Mary Hinkle Shore offers an answer similar to my own, and she has been eloquent in her description of making connections through Accordance software, so I won't try to repeat what she has already said so well, other than to agree with her.

Additionally, I have used Accordance in some of the following ways that have strengthened my preaching:

1) Specific word studies of key Greek terms that help me get a better handle on how to understand the text. This can also be accomplished by comparing multiple translations, but I love being able to amplify with Louw & Nida or other tools to confirm that the word functions as I think it does. An example for this Sunday is the term "hate" in Luke 14:26. Does Jesus really say "hate" mother and father? Louw and Nida helps give context, etc. and it is easier to look it up on Accordance than with multiple volumes on the desk.

2) Frequency of word usage searches and charts. These often help make even more connections in the text.

3) Reading so easily in parallel. It is simply nice to be able to lay a text out on the screen in multiple translations and the original, and glance back and forth over all of them as you prepare. It gives command of the text more readily and quickly.

4) Text study groups... when I'm with a group of clergy and we are discussing the text, it is often handy to have so many reference tools available to address a question that may come up.

#14 James Tucker

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 10:04 PM

I will share one feature of Accordance that I use frequently. I read a lot, and since I read a lot, I like to take a great deal of notes on what I read. I do many things when I take notes, but my notes evolve with the book in a sense. They are, if you will, my attempt to navigate the hermeneutical spiral. Not only do I read a lot, but I read a lot. That is, I read many genres. I am an exegetical theologian, and as such my discipline requires me to read in linguistics, Hebrew Grammar and Syntax, Greek Grammar and Syntax, Philosophy of Language, Hermeneutics, Exegesis, Logic, etc. The primary task of the exegetical theologian is to write synthetically about pertinent aspects of the text that not only weld together various bodies of knowledge in an perspicacious argument, but also do so in a succinct and cogent fashion. It is a difficult task that often takes hours to author a mere 500 words. So, how does Accordance facilitate this? How does Accordance, the grandest of the grand, assist me in organizing thought and notes? Simple: User Notes and User Tools.

Let me explain. When I read a book, I take my notes in the margins. While I ruminate on the book (i.e., review previous chapters and arguments), I begin to transfer my notes onto a legal pad. Upon completion of a book, I go back to the first chapter and review. As I evaluate my notes, they begin to transfer from notes to outlines, nota benes become paragraphs, key words are noted and arguments summarized in my own words. Then, it all goes into Accordance. Any notes that relate to a scriptural passage are recorded in my user notes, and my outline and discourse on the book is turned into a User Tool. When it comes time to write a review of the book, I can work from my user tool and notes. When it comes time to write a paper on a selected passage, to converge the fissiparous thoughts of philosophers, linguists, theologians, etc., into a significant paper, I don't need to revisit the book. I can turn to my Accordance Software and get the job done. Accordance is the seminarian's best friend!

This is just one of the tasks that I put Accordance to Work on. You might ask, doesn't it take a long time to create notes and an user tool? Yep, it does. But, Accordance saves me time in the long run when it comes time to access my notes on a given book and a particular verse — and it is mobile!

#15 A. Smith

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Posted 11 September 2010 - 04:27 PM

This question is for all you pastors, preachers, and speakers:

I often see pastors recommend Accordance and other Bible programs by saying something like, "It has really helped improve my sermons." 

I understand why someone who speaks regularly would say something like that. After all, delivering the most effective message is your primary goal and the main reason you buy any Bible study tool. What I'm curious to know is how you understand your sermons to be improved by your use of Bible software in general and Accordance in particular.

Is it that you can talk more about the underlying Greek and Hebrew? Include more quotes from great theologians or commentaries? Get a better handle on the passage as a whole so that your exegesis stems from a deeper understanding? Find good images, maps, and other visuals to include in a Keynote slide show? In short, what do you mean by "improved"?

Also, how do you measure the improvement in your sermons? Is it that more people compliment the sermon on the way out the door? Do you get more follow-up questions from people? Does it seem like they're "getting it" a little bit more? In other words, as best you can determine, does your congregation/audience think your sermons are "improved"? How do you know?

By the way, I'm asking these questions in the hope it will help us learn how better to serve you pastors and teachers.


For me it's probably down to three things. First it saves me time by pooling most of my major resources in the same place and allowing me to search among and beteen them in amazing ways. While I follow the rule of no using gk or heb in the pulpit, I do A LOT of linguistic work in my exegesis. The construct searches and original language texts help HUGELY. 

Second, along the same vein, I love the diagram tools. Since most of my sermons are expository, being able to play with the structure of the text and mark it up with various notations is very helpful (I do a lot of grammatical diagraming and discourse analysis--did I say I love the diagram tools?). 

Third, I love the notes feature. I don't write sermons in the notes but I have separate files for translation/ commentary, LXX/OG trans/notes and text criticism. These notes save me huge time because rather than scour my commentaries each time, I search my notes where of already referenced the best of them. Now, there is still a time to bring out the tomes, but not every day now. I hope this is reasonably clear. Thanks. 
Anthony Smith
Southwest Christian Church
Ocala, Florida




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