Today I’m starting a new blog series. It’s something of a primer on how to study a Bible passage, as well as how to then teach that passage in a way that is clear and compelling.
I’m calling the series “Backstage Pass” because I’ll be taking you “backstage of the pulpit” to see what goes into writing a sermon. Pretty exciting, huh?
I know, it’s not near as cool as meeting Bono before a U2 concert or going to the locker room before a Philadelphia Eagles football game. Still, every few weeks or so during this winter I’ll do my best to share something helpful about how I go about studying a passage of the Bible and how I craft a message around that passage.
Let me also mention what the series won’t be. This will not be a series about how to study all the different kinds of passages in the Bible. This means I won’t cover the issues involved with interpreting a proverb versus a prophecy, and a pastoral epistle versus an apocalyptic vision. I’m leaving aside these genre- and Testament-specific questions. If you’d like to study these types of questions, check out How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart.
Instead, what I’m going to focus on in this series are the general tools for studying any one passage and how to teach that same passage.
But before I begin this series, though, let’s tackle the obvious question. Do you really need to know how to teach the Bible?
Well, yes and no. I realize that not everyone will become a vocational teacher of the Bible. In fact, few people do. Moreover, James told the early church “not many of you should be teachers” (3:1a).
However, all Christians will spend their life studying the Bible; it’s what we do. So we might as well spend some time talking about how to do it well.
Additionally, many Christians will occasionally find themselves in a situation where they have to understand one specific passage and say something helpful about it. In short, they have to teach the Bible. Perhaps this teaching will occur at a friend’s wedding, an adult Sunday school class, or a children’s devotional before a sporting event. Or maybe you’ll have to teach when a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door to talk about John 1:1 or when your child asks you at the dinner table, “What does it mean that ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23)?”
You can, of course, make something up on the spot, but what if you need to study more? What will you do? That’s what this series will be about.
And even if any of those teaching situations never happens—which I find unlikely in the course of thirty or forty years of following Jesus—still, we are to be those who teach and preach to ourselves. What we learn in the Bible, we need to apply to our own lives.
For all these reasons, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the strategies that I use so that you can use them too.
Though I won’t post about this every week so as to not burn you out on the topic, stay tuned for several more posts in the next few months.
[Picture by Todd Poirier / Unsplash]