Preaching the content of the Bible is not enough

Responding to Jeremiah 23

Preaching the content of the Bible is not enough. Content must lead to intent. The Scriptures are purposeful…they were written to a particular group of people with the intention of bringing about a necessary (from God’s perspective) change. Our noble task, as teachers and preachers of God’s Word, is to discern the original aim of the text. Of course, this requires a careful reading of the both the text and the context. Once grasped, the original aim or the shepherding intent of the text leads us to a biblically-driven application for today. God’s aim then fuels our application.

Unfortunately, we might miss God’s aim because of two blind spots.

Blindspot #1. Our Framework

Our framework is the set of assumptions or the pre-understanding that we bring to any given text. Our framework is shaped by a wide variety of life experiences including our education, our theology, our upbringing and family dynamics, as well as our church life and denominational affiliation. Each of us has a framework, which helps us communicate with others, and sort out ideas and experiences that we encounter throughout life. Our framework is an essential part of our lives, but occasionally it trips us up, for example when it collides with a biblical text.

We’ve all had this experience: we’re reading our Bible and suddenly we stop and say or think: “Hey, wait a minute. That’s not right!” Or “why did the author say that? I certainly wouldn’t have said that in that way!” Or “this is confusing….it seems to contradict my deeply-held convictions.” What’s going on when we respond in this way? …our framework is colliding with the text. The text is challenging some aspect of our framework, and we don’t like it!

Our vulnerability in moments like these is to force the text to fit into our framework. No!!! Let’s remember what we believe about inspiration: the biblical text is inspired, our framework is not. Though we might be tempted to give our framework an authority it doesn’t deserve, instead we ought do the opposite…allow the text to shape and re-shape our framework. The biblical text must rule!

…the biblical text is inspired, our framework is not.

When Jeremiah calls for the prophets to “stand in the council of the LORD”, he is underscoring the preeminence of God’s Word over and above our human framework. When God speaks in his council, he provides his perspective…his priorities…his framework. We, as faithful teachers and preachers, are to listen carefully and then subordinate our perspectives, priorities, and frameworks to his.

“For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (23:18)

Blindspot #2. Our Agenda

Like the false prophets of old, we are vulnerable to teaching and preaching our own agenda. Jeremiah excoriated the prophets of his day for speaking “visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” (23:16b)

David Jackman provides a helpful illustration. If your car is your sermon, where is the Bible located? Is it in the trunk (or boot as David would say)? Perhaps you’ve moved it forward from the trunk to the back seat? Perhaps you’ve given it even greater prominence by placing it on the front passenger seat. But, is it in its proper place…in the driver’s seat? Are we allowing his Word to drive our sermon, setting the agenda for our teaching and preaching?

We may miss God’s shepherding intent either by clinging to our framework or by pushing a personal agenda. Consider these sobering questions honestly…

  1. When does your framework tend to collide with biblical texts? When this happens, which tends to override the other…your framework or the biblical text?
  2. What prominence do biblical texts have in your teaching and preaching?

The transformational intent of Jeremiah 23:16-32 was for the false prophets to repent. How might this text apply to you?


Read more in the series:

The Apologetic Power of Biblical Theology

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Biblical theology helps us understand how God’s revelation in Scripture develops over the course of time. It is a vital discipline to help us understand how to think and live as biblically-minded Christians. We must know where we’ve come from and where we are headed to challenge erroneous thinking in this present age.

Dr. Peter Adam in the article “Preaching and Biblical Theology” (in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology) builds on this idea and explains why biblical theology is an effective apologetic:

It is not possible to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5) without teaching a biblical world view, and we cannot do this without biblical theology. We cannot help people to address the pervasive worldviews of humanism, postmodernity, secularism, materialism and pantheism by providing them with a few helpful texts or pious ideas. They must begin to ‘think God’s thoughts after him’, and they do this by learning the shape of God’s self-revelation in history and in the Bible. This biblical theology is the best corrective for false worldviews, just as it is the best corrective for destructive heresy.

By teaching and using biblical theology in all our Bible teaching we point people to the objective and historical reality of God’s progressive and purposeful revelation. Through this revelation, God speaks a transcendent message to people in every age, and shapes their minds, hearts and lives so that they can know and serve him, and speak his truth to others.

It is true that biblical theology is at the foundation of all proper biblical interpretation. We need to understand the connections between each smaller part of Scripture with the whole, the development of biblical themes, and how Scripture culminates in Christ for clarity in our reading and preaching of the Bible.

“We can use biblical theology to preach the whole Christ and the whole gospel from the whole Bible.” —Peter Adam

Only then can we follow Peter Adam’s words and “use biblical theology to preach the whole Christ and the whole gospel from the whole Bible.” And that, when done properly, is a powerful apologetic in a confused world.

Read the full article online: Preaching and Biblical Theology.

A Golden Opportunity for the Word in Cuba

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Dear Partners & Friends,

“Cuba!” An island in the Caribbean, white sandy beaches, classic cars, the rhythm of rumba and salsa…what comes to mind? Many thoughts. But one that never came to this mind was a visit.

Cuba 2An Unexpected Visit

The times in which we live and the events we experience shape our view of the world. I grew up during the height of the cold war. A trip to Cuba (or Russia) seemed as likely as one to the moon. Yet, this past February, Patricio (LRI Latin America Director) and I boarded a plane to jump the puddle from Monterrey, Mexico to Havana, Cuba.

We walked out of the airport and stepped into what seemed like the set of an old movie. Sun-drenched skies, beautiful palms, classic Chevys, the smell of the sea, each made the experience more surreal. Historic Havana was an interesting mix of architectural influences, American included. It spoke of the power of the Soviet empire yet clearly communicated it was from an era long past, a state of disrepair.

Questions and Answers

Why did our partner invite us? What was the state of the church? What would we find when we met the pastors?

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“Hotel Nacional de Cuba”—Completed in 1930

Answers emerged. MOCLAM (a partner ministry serving in Latin America) invited us to help the church in Cuba. For the past 9 years they had worked with a dozen pastors based in Havana. These 12 have trained 100 more throughout the country. Perfect setup! The training helped them understand the Bible but now MOCLAM felt it was time to strengthen their preaching. The training helped them see Christ as the focus and fulfillment of the Bible’s redemptive story but now it was time to accelerate discipleship and encourage a movement of God’s Word. A match made in heaven! They and we long to see God’s life spread through and mature this country.

The next day we drove to our destination. We spent a few days with these dozen pastors. It was more like a gathering of old friends than a first time meeting of strangers. Welcoming and warm, they were ready to draw us in. Laughter and enthusiasm characterized much of the time. Yet, along the way we also learned that life in Cuba is hard. Ministry is fraught with difficulties, persecution common and poverty acute. The younger generation is fleeing the country in pursuit of the better life. The older one is stuck, nowhere to go and no one to help. Discouragement operates at a level I rarely see. This made them hungry. They craved the unstoppable force that brings hope and life, the Word of God.                                                                          

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“Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta”—Fortress built from 1589–1630.

A Golden Opportunity

Friends, I don’t know if you see what is unfolding to the south. Relations with Cuba have warmed. U.S. airlines are securing direct flights. The Cuban missile crisis of yesteryear has given way to American Cruise ships today. Investment dollars will soon show up in droves. What does this mean for Cuba? What does this mean for the gospel?

We have a golden opportunity. Three things I know:

  1. This is a moment of historic proportions.
  2. God’s Word and the good news of Jesus is the only power that will make the difference.
  3. We have the invitation and partner to bring the hope and life Cuba desperately needs.

Will you pray and give to help Patricio and his team be able to respond to this call?

With gratitude for your generosity,

Todd Kelly

Director of Global Ministries

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PS: The gospel is taking root in Cuba. The most strategic role outsiders can play is to equip pastors to study, teach and preach God’s Word. Your gift this month will enable us to do just that!

Why Training Indigenous Pastors in Biblical Exposition is Essential for the Global Church

Leadership Resources’ ministry focuses on encouraging and equipping pastors around the world to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. Our Training National Trainers program equips indigenous pastors to preach biblical, Christ-centered sermons and pass their training on to others.

It is our conviction that training nationals to preach biblical sermons is one of the most effective ways of strengthening the global church.

Why is training indigenous pastors in biblical exposition essential for the global church?

1. Training pastors is an important part of obeying the Great Commission.

A major part of Christ’s Great Commission is to teach disciples to obey all of His commands (Matthew 28:20). We teach pastors to obey what Christ has commanded, and these pastors in turn better teach others to obey what Christ has commanded. This type of multiplying ministry is what Paul had in mind when he wrote 2 Timothy 2:2, our key verse, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

2. Indigenous pastors can reach their culture better than we can.

The best way to overcome the culture barrier is to avoid it all together. Equipping indigenous pastors to train others is more effective than trying to reach everyone ourselves, is safer, and substantially cheaper. It is also easier because nationals know how to navigate their own transportation systems, cities, and culture much better than we do.

They also often have intimate knowledge of where training is needed, as the story of one Burmese pastor who traveled four days to train in a remote village would indicate. Watch Rawang Pong’s inspiring story.

3. We do not impose a foreign mindset.

Our training has a simple goal: to equip faithful men who will preach God’s Word faithfully. We achieve our goal by training pastors to read and preach the Scriptures. We don’t tell people how to run their church or contextualize (unless they ask!); we make the Bible more accessible to them so they can shape their ministry according to it. Our goal is to transfer Kingdom values, not impose American ones.

4. Pastors need to be able to handle God’s Word correctly.

Unfortunately, 85% of the world’s pastors have little or no biblical training. Each Sunday, many of those pastors preach and shepherd their congregations. Our targeted method of training 15-20 pastors over four years allows us to gauge each pastor’s progress in handling the Scriptures and help them be closely shepherded to ensure their training makes a lasting impact on preachers and their congregations.

“The training helps to avoid heresies and helps focus on the word and avoid your framework. Most of the time in Africa, because of the background in Animism, we try to enforce our points of view on the text, instead of letting the text speak to us. We want to speak on behalf of the text.”

—Francis, a church planter in Togo. Watch Francis explain the importance of TNT for church planters in Togo.

5. Pastors who rightly handle God’s Word are vital to a church’s health.

It is often said that a congregation will never rise above their pastor’s spirituality. If a pastor is unable to rightly read and minister God’s Word, his people will remain unfed instead of being taught, reproofed, corrected, trained in righteousness, and equipped for every good work through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Rolando

“When God called me to pastor a church, I didn’t know how to preach. I was praying… ‘Lord, I want to know how to preach.’ I want that somebody helps me. I pastored three years with no one to help. Since then, I came to know LRI…and I loved that training because they started to tell me that I should only read the Bible and from there they will teach me the principles.”

—Rolando, a pastor in Oaxaca, Mexico. Hear the whole Before & After story of God transforming Rolando and his ministry through TNT.

6. God has already been working in indigenous pastors’ lives.

Why start from square one when you can partner with existing networks of pastors (schools, denominations, fellowships) who can easily gather for training and spread it through their networks?

Read how 32 Brazilian pastors trained over 1,300 pastors throughout their country and more around the world.

7. Training Pastors in Biblical Exposition is on the frontlines of gospel ministry.

We look for where God is already at work. There is no greater need than for Christ’s church to hear and be shaped by His Word. Training national pastors around the world in Christ-centered biblical exposition strengthens the global church with the Word of God and marches forward with the banner of the gospel.


Join the Movement

Pray

We firmly believe the words of J.C. Ryle, who said, “The wheels of all machinery for extending the gospel are moved by prayer.” The enemy does not want God’s life-giving Word to go out and bear fruit and will do whatever it takes to hinder our work and discourage us and those we train.

Please pray for us and with us that “the Word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Email Melanie to find out how you can partner with us in prayer.

Partner with us

We rely on the financial partnership of individuals and churches to train pastors in the 25+ countries where we work. You and your church can partner with us to ignite a movement of God’s Word by training national pastors to preach God’s Word clearly and powerfully.

Training National Pastors in Biblical ExpositionCurrent opportunities include:

Travel with us

We have select training opportunities for pastors who want to see our work first hand. Depending on the pastor’s experience and what type of training it would be, we may invite you to be a part of the teaching team. This is a great way to see God’s work and create a heart for missions in your congregation.

Connect with us on social media

Stay in the loop  with how God is using our ministry by subscribing to our Fuse Line monthly eNewsletter, “liking” our Facebook page, following us on Twitter, or subscribing to our YouTube channel.

Join our team

Leadership Resources is looking for experienced preachers to train with us and administrative staff to support our work around the world from our Palos Heights, IL office. If you have a heart for the nations and desire to make a global impact for Christ and His Kingdom, learn more about current opportunities.

Enjoying Rest and Refreshment from the Word in Honduras

Honduras Retreat Report

Thank you!

DSC_0623In January, Leadership Resources hosted a pastors-and-wives retreat at Lake Yojoa in Honduras – and we have Sanibel Community Church to thank for being a significant part of that.

The retreat was an extra special event that we wanted to do once in our four years of training with these faithful pastor-trainers, and it meant so much to them – and their wives, especially.

What We Did

We met at the modestly beautiful Hotel Finca Las Glorias on Lake Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras. With mountains visible to the north, the spring-like weather and flowers made for a pleasant place for refreshment.

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The mornings were dedicated to training. The pastors continued TNT training – this time studying through the books of 1 & 2 Samuel. The pastors’ wives also had their own workshop – being introduced to the Bible-study principles of TNT through their own study of the book of Ruth.

The afternoons and evenings were blocked off for time together as a group doing fun things, like a boat ride on the lake, a trip to nearby waterfalls, and an evening bonfire with a time of reflection and singing.

Why We Did It

ASC_0500To give rest and refreshment. Behind the scenes, the wives of pastors carry a heavy load – not only caring for their families and being involved in ministry to the church, but helping to bear the load of husbands who labor faithfully but are often discouraged and weary. We wanted to give the wives and their husbands a time of rest and refreshment together.

To say thank you. For the last four years, Leadership Resources has had the privilege of working with pastors in Honduras who are diligently serving their own churches and serving other pastors throughout the country. Their wives have given up time with their husbands as the husbands come twice a year for four days to receive the TNT training. We wanted to take one meeting in this four-year program to include the wives of these pastors – to encourage them, strengthen them, and say thank you.

ASC_0628To help them see what it’s worth. As many of these pastors increase their efforts in the next few years to train other pastors throughout Honduras (and even beyond, in Nicaragua and Guatemala), we wanted the wives to better understand what their husbands will be giving their time to. By experiencing the training themselves, the wives were able to see the worth of the training, and we trust that will help them, along with their husbands, to make the sacrifices that are necessary to equip other pastors in Honduras to teach God’s Word with God’s heart.

In Their Own Words*

Omar and Rosita 2Sister Rosita – I praise the Lord for the opportunity that He has given us to be with our husbands. Because, I’ve never been out of the house that much. I’ve only been away for two days – and never like this! And I wanted to thank God, because He has sent you. As another sister said, we didn’t realize how much we had to learn! We had studied the book of Ruth before, but not as profoundly as this. We now realize that we need to dedicate some time to the Bible and dig into it just like we have here. I praise the Lord because God has sent you here to Honduras to teach us.

Melquis and wifeOne of the wives – We’re so thankful to our brothers at Leadership Resources for taking us into consideration. Generally, it’s only the pastors, only the men, that are given a study. They are the ones that are working. But we are also supporting them… We’re so joyful for the teaching, the communion that we have had with one another. Sandra Paredes has the gift of being a teacher. We have learned a lot. We’re so thankful for all this.

Melquis’ wife – I have taken this to be a dream, and tomorrow I have to open my eyes. It’s been a blessing to get to know the sisters, and hopefully we will see each other again! Please thank everybody that has supported this so this could come true. Please thank them.

Pastor Aquiles – I want to thank God for this TNT training. In every occasion that we are together, God brings new things into our lives. It’s almost 30 years since I’ve been serving in ministry, but I feel like I’m just starting to know things.

In this study of Samuel, I had not seen it this way before – seeing Jesus Christ and the big picture. In all the Bible, we always should be talking about Jesus Christ, especially in the New Testament, as we see God’s plan. But through this study, we see that God’s plan is in the whole Bible. That impacted me this week. Knowing more about God in every chapter. God used our brothers – Brother Paul and Brother Patricio – to see beyond what we were seeing.

I think we’re here because God has allowed us to be here. Some pastors don’t want to be involved in TNT because they don’t think that this training has the same capacity as training from a seminary. I have received from many seminaries, but none of them have changed the lives of students like this.

So that’s why I thank God for this ministry. It’s been a question: Why do you think we’re here? Why is TNT here in Honduras? I say that God is merciful, and He sees servants for Him with many difficulties. But now He’s using other servants that come from another country. They come to teach us better and let us be better children of God. Thank you for this. I will praise the Lord for this.

ASC_0512Pastor Wilver – I thank the brothers that have helped us in the training, in the ministry, to preach the Word of God in a better way. Thank you, brothers. Sometimes I think I’m not supposed to be here, but then I realize that God has me here. God wanted me to change my preaching – to preach the Word in an even better way.

Noelia Guillen – I don’t know what words to say to describe the blessing that it is to be here. Thank you to all the ones in charge from Leadership Resources – for coming to Honduras, and especially this time including the wives. Because, as someone said, you always think about the pastors, but not all their wives. Whenever I heard about this – that the wives  were being included– I thought, “Wow.” And I would like to thank Sandra for showing me that I know nothing. [Laughter.] I had read the book of Ruth, more like a novel, that Ruth needed to get married to Boaz. And to see that there’s a plan there from God . . . I’m surprised that I have read this book before, but never in the way that we have learned it – and I don’t want to leave! I want to keep studying. I want to thank you, and may the Lord continue to use you. I hope that we can have you again sometime. Thank you, and may the Lord bless you all. And to all the people that made this possible, please thank them.

Again, we sincerely thank you all at Sanibel Community Church for partnering with Leadership Resources to make this special pastors and wives retreat a reality.

Submitted with much gratitude in Christ,

DSC_0475Patricio Paredes
Regional Director, Latin America

Paul Adams
Program Director, Honduras


*(edited for readability)

22 Questions for Pastoral Self-Evaluation from Tim Keller and David Powlison

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“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16.

Pastoral ministry is indeed a dangerous calling. Many have been derailed or disqualified in ministry from failing to heed the Apostle Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 4:16. To prevent damage to the church and Christ’s name, pastors must be vigilant in their personal and ministerial self-examination.

In the first appendix of Practical Wisdom for Pastors: Words of Encouragement and Counsel for a Lifetime of Ministry by Curtis C. Thomas, Timothy Keller and David Powlison provides diagnostic questions to help pastors examine their lives and teaching.

Keller and Powlison’s recommendations for what follows:

  • Read the questions carefully.
  • Think hard.
  • Pray.
  • Seek counsel from others.
  • Plan.
  • Acknowledge that others have gifts that complement yours.

Part I. Personal Qualifications of Effective Ministers: Holiness

A. Humility

1. Do you acknowledge your limitations and needs out of confidence in Christ’s gracious power?
2. Do you demonstrate a flexible spirit out of confidence in God’s control over all things, God’s authority over you, and God’s presence with you?

B. Love

1. Do you have a positive approach to people because of confidence in the power and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
2. Do you show a servant’s heart to people because you are first and foremost a servant of the Lord?

C. Integrity

1. Are you responsible to God first and foremost?
2. Do you demonstrate a disciplined lifestyle under the Lordship of Jesus?
3. Are your family commitments a proper priority under the Lord?

D. Spirituality

1. Do you demonstrate personal piety and vigor in your relationship with God?
2. Do you demonstrate faithfulness to the Bible and sound doctrine?

Part II: Functional Qualifications of Effective Ministers: Pastoral Skill

A. Nurture

1. Do you show involved caring that comes from genuine love in Christ for your brothers and sisters?
2. Do you counsel people the Lord’s way? [i.e. using biblical principles.]
3. Do you disciple others into maturity in Christ and use of their gifts?
4. Do you give yourself to discipline and to patrolling the boundaries of the church which God bought with His own blood?

B. Communication

1. Do you preach the whole counsel of God?
2. Do you provide education for God’s many kinds of people?
3. Do you lead others to worship the Lord?

C. Leadership

1. Do you lead people into effective work together?
2. Do you administer well, creating a church that is wise in its stewardship?
3. Do you mediate fellowship among God’s people?
4. Do you create cooperative and team ministry within the church and between churches that honor Christ?

D. Mission

1. Do you evangelize those outside of Jesus Christ?
2. Do you show social concern for the many needs of people whom God desires to address?

Conclusion

“You have looked at yourself, hopefully through God’s eyes. Now work with what you have seen. If you could change in one area in the next year, which would it be? Where do you most need to mature in wisdom? What changes in you would bring the greatest glory to God and greatest blessing to other people?

Confess your sins and failings to God. Jesus Christ is your faithful high priest and shepherd. He is the Pastor of pastors. “Come with confidence to the throne of His grace that you may receive mercy and grace to help you in your time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Believe it and do it. The Lord’s strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Now what must you do? Prayerfully set goals. How will you become a more godly person and pastor? Are there people you must ask to pray for you and hold you accountable? Are there Bible passages or books you must study? Are there plans you must make? Do you need advice from a wise Christian about how to go about changing?”


Download a PDF of the entire article.

This material originally appeared in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol. XII, No. 1, Fall 1993.

Interview with Colin Marshall on The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Around Disciple-Making [Video]

The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple Making Interview

In the video below, Todd Kelly of Leadership Resources sat down with Colin Marshall, CEO of Vinegrowers and co-author of The Vine Project (a sequel to the influential The Trellis and the Vine), to discuss shaping church ministry culture around disciple making.

Learn more about The Vine Project by reading our review.

Buy The Vine Project on Amazon or Matthias Media’s website.

Table of Contents:

00:00 — Introductory comments
00:45 — Why did The Trellis and the Vine need a follow up?
01:52 — Making disciples who make disciples is an inspiring idea. How can pastors achieve it?
04:33 — What is church “culture” and why is it so important to understand?
06:49 — What should a pastor’s goal be in shaping the culture?
08:55 — Colin Marshall describes how a disciple is a “transformative learner.”
10:05 — Does The Vine Project offer a path toward a transformative discipleship community?
16:38 — Do you have a word of encouragement for discouraged pastors?
17:55 — How does prayer relate to this process of culture change? How do you consciously bring prayer in?

Download Mp3 | Watch on YouTube | Watch Interview on The Trellis and the Vine

Related Posts:

Preaching to Make the Bible User Friendly

Preaching in a Way that Trains Bible Readers

Have you ever listened to a sermon and thought, “Wow, I could never get as much from that Scripture text as he did”—as if the preacher was a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat?

I have.

When the preacher is biblically faithful, this can be a beautiful demonstration of God gifting the church with shepherds and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). It may also expose a flaw: the preacher may not be training his flock how to read the Bible through his preaching.

Preachers need to see the preaching event as a key moment in church life that makes the Bible more “user friendly” for congregants. This will deepen their own time in the Word, growing them as disciples and equipping them for ministry (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Failing to do this will hinder spiritual growth by hindering Bible engagement, and could also leave congregants amazed at their preacher’s vast knowledge instead of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Colin Marshall and Tony Payne address the importance of this in The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple Making:

In his preaching, a pastor sounds the tuning fork so that the whole orchestra knows in what key to play. He teaches and guards the sound deposit of the gospel so that all may know it clearly and thoroughly (for how else will they speak it?). He shows them not only what the Bible says, but how they can read and speak that truth for themselves. He constantly teaches the sound doctrinal framework that shapes the Bible reading and speaking of the whole congregation. (117)

What does this equipping look like in practice?

This way of thinking doesn’t require an extra twenty minutes of specialized instruction in each sermon.

What it does require is first understanding the text deeply and knowing how God wants to use it to shepherd hearts (often called the transformational intent of the passage). We will also want to know the challenges our congregants face approaching Scripture so we can properly address them (i.e. does biblical poetry confuse them?). Lastly, we will want to model faithful biblical interpretation by using basic hermeneutical principles to explain our thought process and conclusions. Below are several practical suggestions of how to implement this.

Practical Suggestions:

  • Remind listeners the most important question to ask when reading the Bible: What does the text actually say?
  • Walk through the historical, literary, and biblical context of the passage.
  • Explain how to approach the biblical genre that your text comes from.
  • Explain how the individual parts of your text make up the big idea of the text.
  • Make sure sermons are not a mere oration on the subject that doesn’t flow from the text or so detail-focused you lose the text’s big idea.
  • Regularly point back to the book’s main ideas and explain how your text functions in light of the whole.
  • At the start of a new sermon series through one book of Scripture, encourage your people to read through the whole book in one sitting. You could also preach an overview sermon for a book before beginning a new series on it.
  • Fight the temptation to look to another text of Scripture before you stick your nose deep in the one you’re studying.
  • Note connecting words and their functions. How does the use of words like “therefore”, “for”, “in order that”, “then”, “now” help the author communicate his main point?
  • Lead listeners with thoughtful questions that direct them to the text’s authorial intent.
  • Help the text’s surprises jump out at your listeners.
  • Model asking good questions that uncover the author’s transformative intent. “You might notice in verse two, Paul says such-and-such. Now why would he say that here? Let’s look at verse three for the answer.”
  • Zoom out of your text to see its place in the context of redemptive history.
  • Explain biblical theological themes and how your text points to Christ.
  • Encourage your congregation to underline repeated words or ideas in their Bibles.
  • Have application undergird your teaching as a reminder that God means for Scripture to change our lives.
  • When explaining a hard to understand text, remind listeners that Scripture is its own best interpreter, and model how you think through the text.
  • Recommend and give away books that model faithful Bible interpretation.
  • Offer Bible reading classes/lessons or read the Bible more one-to-one with congregants.
  • Encourage equipped members to minister by regularly reading the Bible with others.

Just like people are more likely to embrace technology that is user-friendly, peppering your preaching with these suggestions over time will help your people better engage the Bible, which will nourish their faith, grow them in holiness, and spur them on to bear fruit.

And as that happens, there will be less magic tricks and exaltation of the preacher in favor of more “wow!” comments where they should be directed: God and His glory as revealed to us in Scripture.

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