Thursday, June 3, 2010

Precious Stones for the Road

This is a transition and a rough one at that. I've talked a little about politics and a little about what I use for an operating system (I just recently upgraded to Fedora 13 and am blogging on Blogilo), and now it is time to add another tier to my blog. This tier is one that is truly dear to my heart and has been since I was 18 years old. The tier of Bible teaching.

I have been a teacher of the Bible as a lay person since I was 18 years old. I have received formal and informal training. Over the years I have developed a practical approach to teaching that helps me get right into the text to discover the "big idea" of the verse, the passage, the chapter, the book, the Old or New Testament, and ultimately, the whole Bible. This approach is not my own as I have adapted it from Haddon W. Robinson's homiletic book called Biblical Preaching. In this book, he explains the method of communicating one "big idea" while preaching. I adapted this method in Bible study and teaching.

When I read a passage, I read until I get a completed thought and then I teach the passage based on that. The thought cannot be my own, but it must belong to the author. I ask myself "What is the 'big idea" the author is trying to get across to his readers?" Sometimes the "big idea" is easy to decipher and sometimes the deciphering requires digging deep into the the history of the text and the original language and culture surrounding the text.

One case in point would be I Corinthians Chapter 3. A first read of this text tells me Paul added this section of his letter to the Corinthians to address a situation that arose due to a dispute the recipients were having amongst themselves that had it's roots in who was the teacher they should follow. Was it Paul or was it to be Apollos? Paul comes into the dispute saying that he laid the foundation and Apollos built on it. It does not matter who adds the building as long as the materials used in the building are quality materials that would even stand up to the fire tests of Judgement Day.

Paul says if a builder comes and builds on his foundation with quality materials, it doesn't matter who does the building, it is God who brings the increase. But if the builder builds with poor material, they will not last. (I'm thinking they will not even last until Judgement Day, but who knows?)

Now, I have summarized the passage following the "big idea". So many times , with this passage, folks get hung up on the building materials and forget the main theme (or "big idea") of the passage. Paul was a church planter and realized that he was not going to be around forever, And, actually, Paul was writing this information in a letter which proves my point that he was not going to be around. A church planter starts and establishes churches. Once established, he moves on to the next. The people who follow him build on what has already been established. If they build wisely, they will see the church thrive. If they build foolishly, the outsiders watching the church will see the demise of the church (quite possible, in their lifetime).

So, one "big idea" Paul is trying to get across in this passage is the idea that "Quality Pastors build the Church with Quality Stuff". There is another "big idea" in this passage as well, "Quality Church Planters Build with Quality Stuff". What is this stuff that Paul built with any way? Whenever Paul went to a city, he would always start with preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a public place. From that series of sermons, he would glean his first disciples and begin establishing the local church of that town or metropolis. So, his foundation was always preaching and teaching the history of Jesus Christ and how his listeners could relate to the life and mission of Jesus Christ. Many times, Paul would give his own testimony.

So, now, once Paul got his first disciples, he would baptize the new believers and begin teaching them all about Jesus Christ and His role in history and the future. Out of this group, he would select leaders, and especially a pastor, to continue the church after he was gone. It is these leaders Paul is talking about in Chapter 3 of First Corinthians. These leaders must continue building the local church with proper teaching and personal instruction. They must evangelize, baptize, teach, instruct, and train people in the Way of Jesus Christ. These teachings are the costly jewels and stones Paul was talking about.

The worthless stuff Paul was talking about was teachings that did not continue the quality foundation Paul laid, but went off on tangents of weirdness not related to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, whether we are starting new churches or simply teaching in a church that has already been established, if we want our church to last even through the fire of Judgement Day, we will teach quality Gospel. We will teach with quality in Sunday School, in Vacation Bible School, from the Pulpit, and in our Small Groups. Teaching the Gospel is not complicated. But sticking to the Gospel is many times quite difficult as there are so many things in the 21 century that bog us down as we are preparing. 

That is why I like "big idea" Bible study and teaching. I can focus on the passage with the ultimate goal of figuring out what the author is saying. Once I have discovered this, then I take that idea and wrap some illustrations around it to drive it home to my audience. 

Notice that I said "I wrap some illustrations around it"? I don't wrap the biblical idea around illustrations as that would corrupt the gospel and turn my teaching into foolish building material.

So, there you have it. My first official blog on Bible Teaching. Stay tune for more. (This will be reviewed and updated for references. Comments are welcome)
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