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Even though Sam Bennett is not a native Montanan, he got there as fast as he could!! He even looks like a Montana Man!!! Here is our exclusive conversation with Sam on how he is reaching seekers in Bozeman, Montana ...
Family: Wife: April, 2 Daughters: Susanna(3) and Halley(1.5), One Son: Andrew(3 mos)
Education: BS in Social Science from Blue Mountain College, Blue Mountain, MS
Web Site: www.thevalleychurch.com
The Valley Church
PO Box 10655
TP: You pastor a nondenom church in Bozeman, but you came from Louisiana. What cultural barriers did you have to cross, as far as preaching is concerned, in making such a huge geographic move? Any differences you've nocticed in communication sytles that work better out there??
SB: There was a good bit of difference just in the people. The people here are very independent, well educated, think for themselves, and very honest. This was a refreshing difference from the south. The people here want you to be real, no posers, as opposed to the south, where they want you to smile and say everything is fine, do what everyone else does, think like everyone else. Individuality is very important here, so I have to respect that. If some one is different, that is OK as long it is within biblical standards. I talk about my weaknesses a good bit to show that I am real and have spiritual struggles just like every one else.
TP: Give us a quick rundown of BOZEMAN BILL, the average guy in your church?? What's your membership look like right now socio-economically.
SB: Bozeman Bill is about 30, married with young children, has an undergraduate degree, and is might be considering going back for a graduate degree. He and his family are outdoors enthusiasts. The hike, camp, fish,
hunt, ski, etc. They love where they live, but are frustrated by the low wages and high cost of living. Bozeman Bill has spiritual needs and is searching for answers, but has been left unsatified by conventional
TP: Your church is made up of many young couples. Many are seekers. What types of messages are you finding to be effective to hit this crowd where they live??
SB:I try to touch them where they are, help them deal with the problems that are right in front of them from a biblical perspective. I try to incorporate both linear and narrative speaking styles to keep everyone interested. With all of this going I also try to mix in a basic systematic theological truth each weak (ie, The omnipotence of God).
TP: Where do you want to carry THE VALLEY CHURCH in your preaching ministry?? What goals have you set that preaching will help you reach?
SB: I want people to leave the church on Sunday with a brain full of things to think on and work on in their life that week, for thier lives to be changed week by week.
TP: Every pastor has some aspect of sermon preparation that they 'hate' to do week in week out. The nuts & bolts stuff. What area of sermon prep do youstruggle with most, and what do you do to overcome it???
SB: Illustrations, I have a hard time thinking of illustrations in the
preparation of the sermon. I can come up with them as I am preaching just fine, but struggle during the preparation.
TP: It's been said that Montanans are very nice people, but they don't like you "getting into their business." Have you found this to be true?? If so, what preaching techniques or devices have you used to try and break this
"reservation" they have with letting anyone on the inside of their lives???
SB: You are correct about Montanans. They are the nicest, most honest people I have ever met, but you can't go up to them and tell them that they have to change, they will show you very quickly that they don't have to do anything. I try and show them the positive things that Christ does in your
life, instead of the negative things that happen without Christ. I present their need/problem (ie, pain, suffering, relationships) and the positive influence Christ will have (ie, joy, peace, healing, love). I teach that heaven and hell are real, but that is not the focus. I deal with younger people, who are not that worried about death, they are more worried about having a better marriage and paying thier bills, so if I focus on the afterlife a great deal, in their eyes it is irrelevant. I try to show them the value of changing their lives right now will have positive effects right now in their lives, not "pie in the sky, bye and bye."
TP: Church planting is an exhausting work. Especially in the early
stages/years. What kind of effect has this played upon your sermon prep each week??
SB: I borrow from other people a good bit. I need all the help I can get. I pray for direction as to what the needs are and try to find as many resources on that need or group of needs, and then prayerfully compile a series to fit my people. So I will spend a lot of time at the beginning of a series getting the messages in line, and only have finish and tune the message for that week on a weekly basis. This gives me more time to spend reaching people, building relationships.
TP: What advice do you have for church planters who will be preaching to this type of audience??
SB: Don't reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of great men of God out there who have done the same things we are doing and made the same mistakes. Learn from them, use them as resources. Solomon said "There is nothing new under the sun." Be as original as possible, but if some one has already done the research, use it!