Use of Original Languages in Preaching and Teaching

IMG_0670It is a huge blessing to be able to study the Bible in its original languages. There are connections you can make that aren’t always as obvious in English translations. There is a temptation to take the results of studying the original languages dump it all into a class or sermon. There are a lot of reasons that is tempting. Some are harmless reasons but others are harmful. It is easy to assume that everyone finds interesting the same things we do. They may not. It is also easy to assume that digging deeper requires increased complexity. It doesn’t. An effective preacher will have discretion on which things support and clarify the point and which things are distractions that muddy the water. I appreciate the preacher who uses the result of studying the original languages sparingly but effectively. It takes a lot of wisdom to know when it is beneficial for the congregation and when it actually detracts.

In Brian Chapell’s book Christ-Centered Preaching (one of the best books on preaching I have ever read) he writes,

“Preaching should never be an excuse to display our erudition at the expense of convincing listeners that they can never really understand what Scripture says because they read only English. We are obligated to explain exegetical insights in such a way that they make the meaning of a text more obvious, not more remote.” – Christ-Centered Preaching, 124

There are two things I really like about Chapell’s statement. The first is that he uses “erudition” and “exegetical” in a statement about making things easy to understand. The second and more important point he makes is that everything that is communicated in preaching should be aimed at increasing the listeners’ understanding of Scripture. It is not about sounding clever. It is not about being funny for humor’s sake. It is making Scripture accessible, understandable, relevant and applicable.

Questions
For those of you who preach and teach, do you make use of the original languages in your study and your preaching/teaching? If so, how often do you do it and how do you determine what to include and what to leave out?

If You Could Learn Sermon Prep From Any Preacher Who Would It Be?

If you could sit down with someone to glean some information on how they develop their sermons who would you pick? Feel free to name multiple people.

Gordon Fee’s Admonition to Preachers – Don’t Become “Professional”

Another post from Listening to the Spirit in the Text by Gordon Fee. Fee’s admonition is on the danger of ministers getting out of touch with God and their task becoming routine and “professional” rather than seeing ministry as a spiritual and vibrant activity,

“I regularly tell students: Have the touch of God on your life. Live in fellowship with him; be among those who cry out with the Psalmist, ‘my soul and my flesh long for you’; ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you; my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ If those who teach and preach God’s Word, which preaching must be based on solid exegesis of the text, do not themselves yearn for God, live constantly in God’s presence, hunger and thirst after God – then how can they possibly bring off the ultimate goal of exegesis, to help to fashion God’s people into genuine Spirituality?

A great danger lurks here, you understand, especially for those who have been called of God to serve the church in pastoral and teaching roles. The danger is to become a professional (in the pejorative sense of the word): to analyze texts and to talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God. I fear for students the day when exegesis becomes easy; or when exegesis is what one does primarily for the sake of others. Because all too often such exegesis is no longer accompanied with a burning heart, so that one no longer lets the texts speak to them. If the biblical text does not grip or possess on’e own soul, it will likely to very little for those who hear.

All of this to say, then, that the first place that exegesis and Spiritual interface is in the exegete’s own soul – that the aim of exegesis is Spirituality, which must be what the exegete brings to the exegetical task, as well as being the ultimate aim of the task itself.”

Few ministers are unaware of this point. It is just important to be reminded of it time and time again. Keeping our heart connected to God in ministry is essential to longevity, to growth and to effectiveness. The danger of routine ministry is great. One thing that helps keep ministers from getting in a rut is to continuously remember that God is working in us and through us to make an eternal difference in the lives of others…that is hardly ordinary or routine! Remembering that and living in light of that is the challenge.

Fine Line Between Radical Faith And Legalism

There has recently been a big push for Christians to get more radical about their faith. The big thing that is being preached more and more is that if you are radical, you will radically follow the commands of God. That is a good move. It is a biblical move (John 14:15). We have had a lot of convenient, comfortable Christianity and it is good to call people to get serious about their faith and put their faith into action. Jesus did that all the time. But Jesus knew how to call people to obedience without siding with the Pharisees (more on that in a minute).

There are several speakers, authors, and pastors who, in their push for obedience, are getting more and more vocal with their judgment calls of who is in and who is out. Here is the gist of how this is said – God’s commands are important (yes). We have to do what God says (of course!). If you aren’t obedient in the areas that are most important to me I will question your salvation (hmmm…). I am sensitive to those types of discussions because growing up in my fellowship there were all kinds of discussions of who was in and who was out. Who do you fellowship and who don’t you fellowship? Where are the lines in the sand? The answer was usually that there are lines in the sand on every conceivable issue whether scripture made a big deal over it or not. I will say we have gotten better about that but I still hear echoes of this mentality in some of the things I heard many years ago. I know it well because I used to be that guy.

The Pharisees started with good motives
Emphasizing  obedience is a good move. It is long overdue. But why can’t we emphasize obedience without swinging the pendulum over to become Pharisaical? Yesterday I read an article Eric Brown sent me called “6 warning signs we’re becoming accidental Pharisees” by Larry Osborne. He highlights some of these things. Reading it is well worth your time.  You know, the Pharisees had some really good motives…at first. They believed that if they bound all aspects of the Law on every day people that God’s people’s obedience would usher in the Messianic Age. The Messiah came and they were so wrapped up in their own self-righteousness that they couldn’t even recognize the Messiah when he walked up to them and introduced himself as such.

In all of our humanity, frailty and weakness it is easy to have difficulty with the tension of emphasizing obedience without missing out on grace. Once we get serious and there is no room for pew sitting it is easy to start making judgment calls about their faith and even their salvation. Are they even Christians? What if they aren’t radical enough in their faith? Along with this, there is an assumption that everyone in the first century was a Christian radical with no one who really needed much grace. They had it together, except for those Corinthians and oh yeah…the 7 Churches of Asia. They had problems to. Come to think of it so did the Galatian churches. You know what so did those in Rome…and Ephesus and Thessalonica…the list could go on starting with the 12 disciples and going all the way to you and me today but you get the point. None of us will be so radical as to make ourselves holy by our own good works.

Last, it is easy to project ourselves onto others. If they don’t sacrifice like we do or give all their book sales away or give a large portion of the church budget to missions then they must not really love God like we do. Careful there! The last I heard it is not the Church of Dabbs or the Church of [fill in the blank with a dozen prominent guys who are doing this right now]. It is Christ’s church. He is the head and we are the body.If someone looks like an appendix to you and you don’t get why they are here or what their function is, at best love and encourage them…at worst just leave them alone!

Our own sinful desires can easily take a good thing like being radical about our faith and twist it into legalism, Pharisaicalism, or worse. We don’t want to become the sons of hell (Matt 23:15) any more than the next guy. So, let’s make sure we guard our hearts against this sort of thing and find the balance that Jesus modeled and taught on this.

Balance in Jesus’ Preaching & Teaching

pulpitpewI was reading some selections of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels and it struck me as to how much variety of purpose and content Jesus had in his preaching. Sometimes he encouraged. Other times his purpose was to challenge. Still other times he was out rebuking people. He also motivated, praised God, informed, corrected, and instructed. Jesus didn’t do things just one for one purpose. Jesus knew that different situations called for different approaches, different purposes and different topics and techniques. If you just do one of these the others will be lacking. If you challenge people every single week in every single way people will feel beat up. If you never challenge people their faith can become stagnant. Biblical preaching requires balance.

There was an old saying in preaching that you “preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other”. The idea behind that statement is that preaching and teaching need to be in tune with what is going on in the real world. I am afraid, though, that approach still lacks balance. There is a third piece, one that Jesus constantly recognized. This piece will bring even more balance to preaching. That piece is context. You have to know who it is you are preaching to. You have to know what they are going through, what questions they have and where they are trying to get to in their spiritual growth and development. Sometimes you are preaching the basics to those who don’t know. Other times there is a need to teach more meat for those who have grown beyond the basics. Balance is key. Extremes are to be avoided. Know your people and preach/teach accordingly.

Who Is Your Favorite Theologian, Preacher, and Worship Leader?…Why?

Let’s really build some people up who have made an impact in your life. There is so much negativity that floats around out there in the internet…let’s hear some positive praise for those who come to mind for you. So who is your…

1 – Favorite Theologian

2 – Favorite Preacher

3 – Worship Leader

Bonus #4 – Ministry Guru

This could be someone very well known or it might be an exceptional person in your local congregation. What puts them on top of your list? Who are some people who are great who might not get some of the attention the big names get? I will try to put in links to your responses, where possible.

Josh Ross Salt Talks 2013 Audio

John Ross at the 53rd Ave Church of Christ in Bradenton just posted the audio of their annual SALT talks with Josh Ross. Four of the six sessions have been uploaded. I realize some of you guys are familiar with Josh and might like to hear the audio. If you aren’t familiar with Josh, it might be good to listen to a few of these because he always has some great things to say (and lives it too!).

SALT Talks 2013