The single greatest need of the church (and also the world) is the clear and sound teaching of God’s Word. It is only from His Word that the gospel of salvation, the reality of Christ’s work on the cross and its subsidiary implications (the establishing of a Godly community following and serving Jesus Christ, caring for the sick/poor and committing ourselves to Godly holiness) is truly understood. This task—preaching God’s Word—is the fundamental task of the preacher and Bible teacher.
And yet, there is a scarcity of preachers and teachers dedicated to this idea. More alarmingly, there seem to be only a few more who even believe that preaching God’s Word will help. Eugene Peterson captures this idea in the opening words of Working the Angles.
“American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationery and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. ” 
H. Richard Niebuhr hypothesized in 1977 that the preacher’s dissatisfaction with ministry comes from confusion about what his task is. He concluded that for many pastors, “perplexity and vagueness continue to afflict thought about ministry.”  Preachers are expected to assume managerial functions, fundraising responsibilities and any number of other tasks that only serve to distract from effective preaching and teaching.
Peterson and many others suggest that a significant cause of this terrible trend finds its origin in the training that pastors receive.
Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, points to the fragmentation and specialization of the seminary as one factor. Professors are encouraged to pursue particular research interests and become experts in particular fields. There are few generalists. This works precisely contrary to the seminary education’s expected goal—the production of an informed pastor who must achieve expertise in all disciplines. In Jensen’s words: “The preacher has to do what no professor does: he must bring together, focus, and use all the resources that the seminary gives him at one moment in time. Even if he makes no formal reference to church history in his sermon, his knowledge of history is what helps create the depth and texture of the sermon, part of what give it authority. In other words, the preacher has to integrate all his learning as well as all his experience in a few moments.” 
Present training institutions tend to push the aspiring preacher toward academic pursuits. They’ve lost sight of their primary goal and in so doing, have dropped a significant focus on the integrative act of preaching and teaching God’s Word.
Peterson puts the seminary experience in slightly different words. “The reading skills that we acquire under such conditions are inevitably attentive primarily to the informational: we are taught to read for the factual, the useful, the relevant. Most pastors have twenty years or so of such training. We read to pass examinations, to find out how to parse a Greek verb or to run a church office. If we read occasionally to divert ourselves on a cold winter’s night it is not counted as serious reading. We are not systematically taught over these twenty years to pick up nuance and allusion, catching the meaning and intent of the living voice behind the words on the page.” 
When the living voice of the Holy Spirit is lost from the words on the page, so is the Truth and any effect that the words might otherwise have.
If seminaries are pushing students in the academic direction, practical experience pushes them in a very different and often unhelpful direction. It is the natural position of practitioners, of preachers and teachers in real live ministry situations to desire some measure of relevance. When young preachers step into the pulpit for the first time and realize that their highly academic training will have little significance to the average congregant, the result is often an abandonment of sound teaching. Jensen suggests that this very fact accounts for the significant shift in the last few decades away from Biblical exposition toward a more topical kind of preaching. And over time, this shift brings havoc. The topical issues determine the message and the Bible is only superficial.
If the fundamental task of the preacher is that thing that the church and the world needs—the careful and thoughtful exposition of God’s Word—then the problem of confusion must be addressed. And if we are to run with the idea that Peterson, Jensen and many others have suggested, that the problem is a deficiency in training, then the solution will be to rethink training.
The solution is integration. If we are to train preachers and teachers who are engaged in this changing world and yet have a firm grasp of God’s unchanging Word, then we must bring the seminary and the Church together.
The idea is not without historical precedent. The refrain of the preacher-led evangelical movement in Tudor England was “Godly and Learned.” Their hope was to train men not only in the academic tools available in schools of higher education, but to commit themselves to each other as preachers of God’s Word. The result was a combination of prophesyings and residential training. Prophesyings, or gatherings of preachers to work on sermons together and offer each other critique and advice, occurred weekly in some locations and monthly in others throughout the middle of the sixteenth century. Residential training took place under men like Laurence Chaderton, founding master of Emmanel College at Cambridge, during the 1570s and 1580s. He would collect students from the college to work on the practical aspects of preaching and teaching and using the Bible intelligently.
The question of what this might look like in our twenty-first century world remains. D.A. Carson, a Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor, gives testimony on the subject that compels a certain answer. His approach begins with bringing “ten or fifteen of the ablest pastor-preachers to churches within a short driving distance of Trinity.” In his words: “The reason is obvious: a great many things are better caught than taught. I wish more of our students were exposed to great preaching. Some of the most important lessons I have learned about preaching have been gleaned by sitting under the ministry of able preachers.” 
As the need is so apparent and being discussed by such noteworthy men, many experiments in integrating the church with the seminary will arise over the next 25 years. The Proclamation Trust in London is 16 years in on their Cornhill Training Course. MTS in Sydney and the surrounding areas is well established. Even in North America, more and more churches are paying attention to the importance of training the next generation of preachers. The Simeon Course on Biblical Exposition is our contribution to this movement.
WHAT WE DO
The Simeon Course on Biblical Exposition is a training course singularly focused on the practice of reading and understanding and then preaching and teaching God’s Word. We have little interest in other subjects beyond their ability to support this one subject. As such, the Course brings together what we think are the three components of effective training: classroom style instruction, ministry exposure in an actual church, and mentorship from an experienced, godly preacher.
The idea is that we have students in our classrooms but also working in churches. They will learn in the classroom but then have a practical laboratory where they can immediately practice what they are learning. The class work will focus primarily on those subjects that are most necessary for preacher/teacher and serve as a bridge to more formal seminary style classes. The result will be a coherent, cohesive and integrated setting for the training of preachers and teachers.
Our intention is not to replace seminary as the institution for formal training. Rather we have in mind three sets of ideal prospective students. First, we hope to attract those who have finished an undergraduate degree and are on a clear trajectory to seminary and/or full-time ministry. As they spend time in our course, integrating the reality of church life and their training, they will develop the right instincts. These instincts will then carry them through additional training, allowing them to integrate their formal class work in a healthy way. Second, we hope to attract students who have recently finished their seminary education. The Simeon Course will give them a sharper focus on the acts of preaching and teaching, allowing them to synthesize all that they’ve learned in a real-life church setting as they progress in full-time ministry. Third, we hope to serve lay leaders in churches who take serious their responsibility to handle God's Word. Whether elders or Bible study leaders, missionaries or Sunday school teachers, the Course provides basic training in handling the Bible.
Ultimately, the course seeks to equip and encourage preachers and teachers who will serve God’s people and the world by proclaiming the Truth. And in doing so, glory will be brought to the Lord Jesus Christ.
 Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles, Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing, 1987, 1.
 H. Richard Niebuhr, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry, New York: HarperCollins, 1977, 54.
 Peter Jensen, “The Seminary and the Sermon” in Preaching the Word, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007, 219.
 Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles, Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing, 1987, 95.
 D.A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit,” in Preaching the Word, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007, 188.
 There are other formats for the course available. Please see Course Details for more information.