Why does biblical engagement matter?

Why does biblical engagement matter?
Let me take you back to 620 BC. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, had been in decline for almost a century, with only a brief revival under King Josiah. His sons proved to be ungodly leaders who abandoned the God of Israel. God, in his mercy, sent prophets to urge both the leaders and the people to repent. If they refused, Jeremiah, Habakkuk and others warned of a coming invasion and devastating defeat, followed by a bitter exile.

But other prophets contradicted these warnings with comforting words that only stirred false hopes. Jeremiah 23 reads:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” (v.16-17)

These false prophets spoke lies, “the deceit of their own hearts”(v.26). They offered up their own dreams as a word from the Lord saying, “I have dreamed! I have dreamed!”(v.25). They would hear an impressive-sounding prophesy from one of their own, and then plagiarize the message and preach it as if it was their own (v.30).

God sarcastically prods the false prophets to keep what they’re doing in order to make the contrast crystal clear.

Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord”(v.28)

The contrast between the false words of the lying prophets and the words of the living God is sharpened even further. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”(v.29).

What can we say that will really make any difference in people’s lives? How can we help those consumed by anger? What can we say that would deliver people from jealousy or greed? Do we actually think that our words could free people for their enslaving habits? Our words are such weak things compared with the powerful temptations that our people wrestle. Our people need a word from God that is full of power…that brings life…that consumes the dross in their lives. We, as teachers and preachers of God’s Word, simply don’t have that capacity within ourselves. Only God and his Word have the transformative power that can change people at the core of their being.

In Jeremiah’s day, the faithful proclamation of God’s Word would have brought repentance and mercy.

But if they had stood in my council,
    then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
    and from the evil of their deeds.(v.22)

This is why biblical engagement matters today. Only God’s Word empowered by God’s Spirit can bring the salvation, the deliverance, and the freedom that our people need.

Read more in the series:

Why does biblical interpretation matter?

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I became a believer in 1970 while a freshman at the University of Illinois. The early 70’s were a time of a great spiritual harvest on the college campuses across the country, and God, in his great mercy, included me.

A few months later, I began to receive postcards from Chuck, a young man who had lived with us. My mother was a high school English teacher with a huge heart. She ended up welcoming troubled high schoolers into our home….sometimes for a few days or, as in the case of Chuck, for several months. When Chuck left us, he was lost…trying to find his way in life. But then these postcards arrived, full of Bible verses. “Cool!” I thought. “Chuck has become a believer just like me”. One postcard brought me much joy. Chuck informed us that he was going to visit us over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Unbeknowst to us, Chuck had joined a cult, the Children of God. Upon his arrival, he began to explain that if I really loved Jesus, I would join their group. Remaining in school was not an option if I was going to be a serious follower of Christ. Universities and corporations were all part of the world’s system. Genuine followers should abandon the world and join with the only true believers, the Children of God.

I was confused, so I invited Gerry, a fellow student who was discipling me, to meet with Chuck. Gerry became confused as well and eventually we both became convinced that we should drop out of school and join them. When I told my mother that I was leaving to join the Children of God, it broke her heart. She later told me that it was the most painful experience of her life, almost as devastating to her as the death of my father a few years earlier.

But, what could I do? Chuck and his friends reminded me that Jesus said that to follow him we must hate our father and mother. The Children of God encouraged their new members to take from their families as much money as possible as well as a car and other valuables. After all, when Israel left Egypt, they took “the spoils of Egypt and plundered the Egyptians.” I left the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, telling my mother that I might never see her again.

The brainwashing began my very first night with the cult. They began to indoctrinate me with five different Bible studies. The next morning I awoke confused, exhausted and scared. I sought the Lord in the Scriptures and read, For those who guide this people are leading them astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.” (Isaiah 9:16) Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure which leaders were leading me astray…was it my campus leaders or the Children of God???

God in his great mercy delivered me from the cult later that day. Miraculously, my older brother and a couple of my campus friends were able to find me and come to my rescue. But I remember driving back to the university with confusion and shame filling my soul. As a campus friend drove, I opened my Bible and discovered Ephesians 4:14  “…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

That long, sobering drive to Champaign, IL began to form in me a conviction that I needed to give myself to study, learn, and love God’s Word. God has used my experience with the Children of God to profoundly shape me…for good.

Does biblical interpretation matter? I can’t think of anything that matters more.

Read more in the series:

Does biblical preaching matter?

Leadership Resources - Missions and Expository Preaching Blog

Over ten years ago I was in Ghana, helping to equip a group of pastors from West Africa. My most vivid memory from that time was etched in my mind during a particular lunch break. The host pastor invited us into his home and while we were eating he turned the television on. Behold, a pastor from Texas was preaching up a storm! Unfortunately, he was railing for (or against?) a federal “flat tax.” At the time, one of our country’s political debates was whether the graduated federal income tax should be changed to a single rate “flat tax.” This preacher had an opinion and was expressing it forcefully.

I sat watching these West African pastors as they attempted to absorb what the TV preacher was saying. They assumed that this famous, international television personality must be speaking God’s truth to God’s people. Surely this pastor should not only be listened to with great care, but also emulated. I still wonder if those West African pastors preached about a flax tax the following Sunday in their churches?!?!?

Over 2600 years ago, the land of Judah was experiencing a similar crisis. While Jeremiah was preaching judgment and repentance, false prophets were preaching their own thoughts.

“They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” (Jeremiah 23:16b, 17)

These false prophets were likely thinking: it doesn’t really matter what I say, as long as I say something interesting and hopeful.

It mattered a lot, for God was listening.

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’” (v.23-25)

The prophets thought that God was on the other side of the universe, too far away to hear and too disinterested to care. No. God is a God at hand. God hears every lie, every distortion, every foolish word spoken. God sees these false prophets promoting their own purposes rather than His.

Often when I prepare to preach, I imagine that God is sitting in the first row of the church listening to my every word. I remind myself that he is in the audience, in fact, he is the audience…I have an audience of One.

This realization sobers me deeply, because I realize that I, too, am vulnerable to bring my own biases and deceptions to the pulpit…not unlike the lying prophets of Jeremiah’s day.

“How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?” (v.26-27)

The pulpit is a powerful platform, but also a seductive one. To some degree, we can’t help but bring our own agenda to the pulpit. Each of us have our personal hobby horses that we’re tempted to ride across the platform. And then there’s the seductions of our audience…their attentiveness and their affirmations. Our preaching priorities and motives can quickly become mixed.

This shift in priorities or motives places us, as teachers and preachers, in terrible danger. Simply put, if our words and ideas form the centerpiece of our message, God sets his face against us.

“Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.” (v.30-32)

Woe to us if we speak our own words. Our words are weak, flimsy things that may actually lead people away from the things of God.

Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (v. 28-29)

Yes, biblical preaching matters!

Why does biblical transformation matter?

New Life

Our first training session in an eastern Asian country was about to begin, in the foothills of the Himalayas. We were waiting for one more pastor to arrive. As I walked up the footpath to the training center, I saw a man trudging up the road towards me. I stopped, thinking: this is probably him. I greeted him with one of the few words I knew in his language. Switching quickly to English, I said ,“we’re ready to begin!” In spite of the language barrier, I persuaded him to follow me.

During that first training session, the pastor, Tham, seemed completely disengaged, as if in a daze. During the morning break when all of the other pastors were greeting one another, Tham sat outside on a boulder staring off into the mountains. What was going on?

At breakfast the next morning I learned from Tham that he was exhausted. He had traveled 4 days to get to the training…2 days by bus and 2 days on foot. But there was something else wearying him…something in him that God’s Word confronted that week, resulting in a profound, personal transformation in his life. We’ll circle back to Tham, but first a question.

Does biblical transformation matter? Jeremiah thinks so…

“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)

The responsibility of the teacher and preacher of God’s Word is both simple and clear. To see…to hear…to pay attention…to listen to what God says. Verse 18 uses four verbs of attentiveness to capture our attention. Creativity, persuasion, and cleverness are not are our primary responsibilities. Rather, listening is our fundamental calling.

If we listen well, we proclaim well. If we proclaim well, then the Spirit of God in sync with the Word of God does its incredible work.

But if they had stood in my council,
    then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
    and from the evil of their deeds. (23:22)

In Jeremiah’s day, God’s people could have been spared God’s judgment…if only they would have heard the unadulterated words of God. God’s people would have turned from their sin. They would have experienced personal and national transformation through God’s gracious gift of repentance. But it was not to be, because the prophets proclaimed their own words rather than God’s. The result: “Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth…” (23:19a)

Transformation is inherent to God’s Word. His words were given to bring about a transformational intent. God’s words were first delivered to his people by his prophets so that they might respond in a particular way and thus experience God’s blessing. God’s Word for the original audience was not merely informational, it was intentional. As we listen, study, hear, pay attention to God’s Word, we discover the aim…that original transformational intent which then drives the application of the text to our 21st century audience. The very nature of God’s Word is transformational.

Pastor Tham discovered this truth in an unexpected, yet powerful way. Our first training session with Tham and the other pastors focused on the book of Jonah. Pastor Steve Brandon opened the training time by preaching Jonah 1, the story of the disobedient prophet pursued by his gracious, but persistent God.

Just prior to that first training, Tham had decided to leave the ministry. Two factors drove him to this painful decision. First, he felt woefully inadequate in the ministry. Second, he was under terrible financial pressure. In his country, parents must pay for their children’s education. Tham simply wasn’t making enough to pay the school and university fees for his 6 children. He reluctantly decided to leave his church, move to a nearby city and get a decent-paying job. The decision was made by the time we met him…I’m not ever sure why he came.

However, Tham discovered that he could not escape “The Hound of Heaven”. As Tham sat listening to Jonah’s story, it became his story. Tham came under great conviction…like Jonah, he was fleeing from God and God’s good purposes for his life. Of course, we didn’t realize at the time the work that God was doing in his heart. Only later did Tham relate his story and then tell us that that he had changed his mind…he would continue pastoring his people, by God’s grace. Over the next four years, we were able to build into Tham’s life and encourage him along the way. Today, he continues to teach and shepherd his people and has even opened up a training center in his local church. Tham is flourishing because he personally experienced the transformational intent of God’s Word.

Does biblical transformation matter? Just ask Tham and the members of his church.

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.

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.

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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