Date: October 22, 2008
“Everything I’m going to say begins with the assumption that you believe the sermon, at heart, is a reflection on the word of God,” said Bill Knott, featured speaker for the annual H.M.S. Richards Lectureship on Biblical Preaching. Knott, executive editor and executive publisher of the Adventist Review and Adventist World, aimed to inspire those sitting in the pews of the packed Seminary Chapel at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Mich. by focusing on the theme, “Preaching Worthy of the Name.”
Knott began his four-part lecture series by bringing to light a unique, personal connection to H.M.S. Richards: while working at a coal mining camp in Colorado, Knott’s grandfather was given Bible studies by Richards’ father, H.M. J. Richards. “So there is a kind of symmetry for being here,” he said.
Knott, himself a veteran pastor and graduate of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, immediately connected to the many students in the attendance by recalling his time studying. He told the story of Hannah More, an early Adventist reformer, missionary and the subject of Knott’s dissertation. Her story is fragmentary, known mainly to Adventists only through some early writings of Ellen G. White. While studying her 150-year-old handwritten letters, the primary source for his research, Knott grew so familiar he could spot her letters while sifting through microfiche files at a high speed. He connected this skill to the importance of studying the word of God: “You get good when you spend time with a text at understanding its internal consistency. You become good at understanding what is essential about it.”
The importance of not only studying the word of God, but also living with the text was emphasized, as Knott said, “If a sermon lacks a central, organizing authoritative text at the heart of the meditation, it’s probably going to fall short on almost every count.”
Twenty-nine years after Knott last spoke from behind the pulpit in the Seminary Chapel, he returned to give these words of advice to students set to embark upon their own journey in ministry: “It took me a long time to figure out how to take all that I got from this place and be able to use it for the benefit of the church…You have to find a way to walk and talk with your congregation and show what you have learned and gained from the word of God actually makes a difference. That’s, to me, the great integrative task that sometimes we don’t focus on,” said Knott.
The H.M.S Richards Lectureship is named in honor of H.M.S. Richards, a pioneering Seventh-day Adventist preacher and founder of the broadcast ministry, The Voice of Prophecy. It is considered a hallmark of the academic year in terms of presentations and lectures. This annual lectureship advances the theory and practice of Bible-based, Christian preaching among seminarians, professional clergy and interested lay persons. H.M.S. Richards, himself, gave the first lectures in 1957. The lectureship continued on an annual basis before being discontinued. In 1994, it was permanently restored as an annual lectureship on Biblical preaching under the sponsorship of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich.
-Written by Keri Suarez, media relations specialist, Office of Integrated Marketing & Communication