Seven Benefits of a Slow-Burn Project

A lot of ministry happens on fairly short notice. The weekly rhythm keeps ticking like a metronome, and it tends to get interrupted by emergencies. Church emergencies, outside ministry requests, family issues, as well as things going wrong in the house, etc., there is always something pressing. This is why sermon preparation tends to fit into the few days before Sunday. And sometimes it is like a game of Tetris making it fit!

If you don’t already have one, consider adding one more thing to your load. A slow-burn, no-pressure, long-term project. Something that motivates you biblically and theologically.

Here are seven benefits of this kind of approach:

  1. Redeem the time without stress. When people talk about redeeming the time, it sometimes becomes a frantic multi-tasking that ends up costing us sanity and productivity. Having a slow-burn project allows you to use ten minutes here and there in a way that feels enriching rather than annoying.
  2. Read different materials. I don’t tend to have the time to read journal articles when I am preparing a sermon. But with a slow-burn project I can accumulate and gradually engage with different types of materials.
  3. Get assistance in your research. It is rarely helpful to ask around for a resource when sermon prep is pressing (other than going to that friend who has a good commentary to borrow, of course). But with this kind of project I find that I ask more random people if anything comes to mind and sometimes get some very helpful things in return.
  4. Dig deeper into the text. When Sunday is coming, the sermon has to come sooner. But with a long-term project there is room to analyse the biblical text more thoroughly. If you have enough Greek or Hebrew you can really dig in and dwell in the text. You can become really familiar with a passage, its parsing, its logic, its nuances, its uniqueness. No pressure. No rush. (And if you are probing something theological or historical, you can probe so much deeper there too.)
  5. Find schedule-shifting motivation. When there isn’t a deadline pressing you on a project, there will be times when that project lies almost dormant. And other times when you feel that spark that motivates you to move other things out of the way in order to make progress on the project. That is always the best kind of pressure, the kind that builds up inside your soul to give attention to something that is motivating you.
  6. There may be a surprising ministry outcome. Don’t rush this part, but a slow project can yield surprising fruit. Obviously there may be a sermon or a series to be had, but don’t rush into that. Could there be a seminar or workshop that would help others? It could also be a magazine, or journal, article. Maybe it will move you into an academic season and become a thesis or dissertation. Perhaps a book.
  7. There will be a welcome personal outcome. Whether or not your slow-burn project yields an outcome in terms of specific ministry, it will yield all the great fruits of long-term pondering on and dwelling in God’s Word. It may be that it sparks an interest in another aspect of Scripture, or a writer from church history, or an aspect of theology, that becomes heart food for a future season of life and ministry. The slow-burn project may yield an outcome of real value for others, but it will almost certainly do something even deeper in you.

What slow-burn long-term project have you found has had a big impact in your life and ministry?

Logos 4 – First Glimpse

My first Bible study software was Bibleworks, which I’ve continued to use through numerous upgrades and continue to use very regularly.  A couple of years ago I was given Logos 3, which was a great tool because of the library of reference tools on there.  I just upgraded to Logos 4.  First impressions?

Wow!  This is a significant and impressive upgrade.  It seems easy to navigate and use at a simple level, or to plumb the depths of the tools and resources available.  The desktop is fully customizable allowing for a study arrangement that suits you.  The integration of resources is impressive, saving a lot of time in opening and looking up resources.  I could say more, but I’d encourage you to take a look for yourself.

The range of resources available on Logos is growing all the time.  Be careful not to purchase individual products before checking to see if they are included in a higher base package – if there are one or two commentary sets you are looking at, chances are you’ll save money by upgrading your base package.  Warning . . . if you love books you could very easily get an online shopping addiction!

For more info, go to logos.com

Anyone else have any thoughts on Logos 4 (or Bibleworks, etc.)?

Review: Bibleworks 8

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I’ve had Bibleworks for many years (since the Hermeneutika days!), but I’ve had Bibleworks 8 for just a couple of weeks.  Is it worth upgrading from an older version?  Is it worth buying Bibleworks for the first time?  Yes and a qualified yes. The qualified yes is that it is worth buying Bibleworks for the first time if you are serious about biblical exegesis, especially original language work.  If all you want is a Bible on the computer and the ability to do a simple search for a word in the English Bible, then you can get cheap or even free software to do that.  Bibleworks is not a library of commentaries, although it does have an increasing set of quality reference tools built-in.  Bibleworks is not a collection of public domain reference tools that are freely available elsewhere.  Bibleworks is about serious biblical exegesis, especially in the original languages.

Some things don’t change.  The basic feel of the program is the same as before, although the user interface is now more logical in its organization.  You still get more Bible versions than you’ll know what to do with, including numerous foreign language versions (great for missionaries), a significant array of Greek and Hebrew grammars and access to such things as the Belgic and Westminster Confessions, and Schaff’s church fathers.

Most things keep improving.  In reality there are now more of the above versions (TNIV, NIrV, plus Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Macedonian, Russian, Arabic, etc.), grammars and historical texts.  I was interested to see that Waltke & O’Connor as well as Dan Wallace’s grammar are now included without needing to be unlocked (Jouon and Muruoka are included too, but I haven’t got into that yet!)  There is now another set of NT Greek diagrams to compare with the previous set (which leads me to ask why this was not available when I was in seminary, and also to make some passing comment about how easy it must be now compared to “back in my day!”)  Apparently, you can now listen to the English text read aloud (if you’re on Vista, which I’m not, so I can’t comment on how that sounds).

The real heart of Bibleworks is how easily it allows complex searches and access to text related information.  Both are easier and better in version 8.  The Analysis Window is clearer and more sensibly organized.  Now there is more information close to hand when working in a text.  I like the context tab, which gives lists of word frequency in the pericope, chapter and book.  The stats tab gives visual representation of the current search results, and the X-refs tabs gives sets of cross-references associated with the current verse (which I suppose some preachers will enjoy too much!)  Phrase matching and related verse tools are impressive new features, finding the same wording elsewhere in the canon.  Grammatical searches are easy to use with auto-complete features.  Not only does Bibleworks have lots of searching tools, it also has them very well integrated.

The text export function is now far more sophisticated, so once I figure out how to use it, I won’t have to reformat every verse I import to MS Word (and once I check the instructions I am sure it will become clearer how to get this feature to work the way I want it to!)

Overall impression so far?  I didn’t know if I’d notice the difference, but I do.  I’m glad I’m blessed with Bibleworks 8 and I would encourage others who do serious exegetical work with original languages to jump in and join me.  I have Logos/Libronix, but honestly always go back to Bibleworks for working with the Bible (and to Libronix for the excellent commentaries).  I cannot compare Bibleworks with Gramcord or Accordance as I don’t have or use either, but I can compare Bibleworks 8 with 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.1, etc.  It’s better.

For more info, pricing, full database lists, etc., please go to bibleworks.com or if you’re in UK/EU go to bibleworks.co.uk

I would be interested to hear from other Bibleworks users what features you find helpful in your sermon preparation.