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Matzal Research Ezra Nehemiah Culture.jpeg


The Two Components of this project:

  • During the summer of 2023, I preached a sermon from Ezra-Nehemiah at eight different churches. 

  • Afterwards, I led a group discussion about the application sections of the sermon.

The Sermon I Preached was one of these:

Click on the sermon title above for more information about each sermon.

ThGroup Discussion

  • The group discussion was about the application points of the sermon. In other words, the discussion was about the sermon as much as iwas about the participants' lives. The sermon functioned as a springboard for consideration of the congregants' experiences as Christians in a secular culture. I asked the participants to share stories or situations where they have felt the pressures of contemporary non-Christian culture. How did they handle those situations? What can they and others learn from those situations?

  • I recorded the discussions so that I can study it afterwards. My ultimate goal is to share the insights that I gain from these discussions with other pastors (through my published work), to help their preaching. They will be helped by knowing what Christians are really experiencing in the world today.

Why It Matters (video)

Sundays on which I'm available to preach (this list last updated July 11, 2023)

  • On July 11, I confirmed my last available date. I am not able to conduct this research at any new churches.

Inviting your congregants to the group discussion on Zoom

  • I'd like to work out the details in the way that you think would work best for your church.

  • My preference would be that on the Sunday I preach at your church, little to no mention be made about my research project. I don't want my research to be a distraction to your normal worship service.

  • I was required to have my project reviewed by a Research Ethics Board. They approved a process of inviting people to the discussion group that asks you to send an email, such as this one, to your congregation, preferably after the Sunday service at which I preach. The main point is that whether the discussion group is held in person or over Zoom, I at least need to tell the participants that I will be recording the discussion and that I will be keeping their contributions to the discussion anonymous.

My contact info:

More about me and this research project

  • My bio on my church website.

  • My CV.

  • More about my research project.

  • My completed dissertation should be available in late 2024; however, prior to that time I will share a summary of my research findings with all participating churches.

  • Do you need a place to stay overnight?
    I'll probably get a better night sleep if I make my own arrangements at a local hotel. That's my preference.
  • Are you expecting to receive an honorarium?
    I'd prefer to receive neither an honorarium nor any travel expense reimbursement. You are providing a wonderful service to me by allowing me to conduct this research at your church!
  • How long is each sermon?
    As they currently stand, each of the three sermons is approximately 35 minutes long. I can, however, modify the sermon to fit your Sunday morning order of worship, whether you allot more or less time than that to the sermon.
  • Will you have slides to be projected?
    I normally preach without presentation slides. However, for the Ezra 4 - 6 sermon, I would like to be able to project a map at the beginning if possible. I'm flexible in this regard. I can prepare slides if that is important to you. I can go without.
  • Is there a possibility that you will teach doctrines that contradict those of our church?
    It is important to me that I honor the doctrine and the authority of the pastors/elders of your church. I will not contradict your church's statement of faith. From a link on this webpage (above) you can find a full manuscript of the sermon I will preach at your church; if anything in that sermon is problematic, I would be happy to discuss it with you. In the discussion group, my role will be to ask questions, not to teach.
  • Will you be sensitive to our unique context?
    I certainly want to be! Please tell me anything I need to know about your congregation and its current situation. My goal is not to force any unique agenda on your congregation. I will preach from Ezra-Nehemiah and then to listen to congregants as they share their experiences related to the application sections of the sermon.
  • When exactly do you intend to conduct the group discussion?
    It is not always easy for people to give up an hour of their time to discuss a sermon and their real lives. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate your help in setting up the time and location of the discussion in a way that you think would be most convenient for people in your church. This could be some time in person on the Sunday in which I am the guest preacher at your church, or it could be over Zoom some time later the same week.
  • Can you tell me more about the group discussion. What kinds of questions will you be asking?
    The questions would all be like the following examples. The first few questions I would ask will work off of the application sections of the sermon I preach at your church. These will vary slightly, depending on which sermon I preach at your church. In what ways do you find it most difficult to live a distinctively Christian life in cultural settings that are predominantly non-Christian? Where do you feel the temptation to be embarrassed about your Christian faith? Tell us about a situation or a time where you felt some sort of pressure or challenge from the world. Tell us about a time where secular culture cause you to be tempted to compromise your faith Whether you handled the situation well or not, are there lessons to be learned from your experience. Sometimes pastors and theologians don't know what it is like on a street level to live as a Christian in secular environments. What do pastors need to understand in order to better appreciate the pressures that Christians feel today? What are similarities and differences between situations you have faced, and those faced by the characters in Ezra-Nehemiah?
  • At what types of churches are you hoping to do this research?
    My goal is to do this research at a diverse group of evangelical churches in the Northeast US and Eastern Canada, including at least one urban, one suburban, and one rural church. I'm looking to arrange for churches from a variety of denominations located in several different states and provinces. As of Jun 17, 2023, I have confirmed churches where I will be conducting this research in Upstate New York, New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Ontario.
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