It is my opinion, after months and years of observation, that many people in North America who are responsible for teaching and preaching the Bible to congregations, do so to perpetuate their own thoughts, teachings, preferences and traditions. This isn't necessarily always intentional but it still happens. Look at any Christian TV program and see for yourself. But it doesn't stop there.
God's word still remains hidden to so many people.
At the end of 2008 I was re-introduced to God's word. This book, called the Bible, that I grew up reading, that I went to college to study verse by verse, even spent fifteen years studying it to teach to others on a weekly basis, yes this book, I was re-introuduced to in a whole new and eye-opening way. I now use an entirely different process to study and understand God's word. I think everyone else should do this too. Let's begin with the common way.
A person, usually the minister or teacher, reads a book on church growth, leadership or some other inspirational content (doesn't really matter what it is). A quote or concept is recognized and it catches the attention of the teacher. Incidently, the concept is supported by a Bible verse or two (maybe!). Subsequently, the teacher that is "studying" for a sermon or teaching uses the verses and spring boards into all kinds of points to support his concept, theme or teaching. Sometimes it's the opposite where the Bible is being read first and then other materials are used to substantiate what the Scripture says. Presto. The Bible has been taught. Right? Hold on a minute.
This form isn't necessarily evil. There is some good that can come of it. I participated in this form of study many times as professional clergy. It was modeled to me and it is very common. It's all I really knew for some time. The problem is that there is such a great danger of a few things. 1. It is very easy to simply make up what you want the Bible to be saying. 2. It is easy to miss much or all of what the Bible is really saying. 3. It is entirely possible to teach something that is absolutely false doctrine. There's plenty of that going on today.
This leaves our churches biblically illiterate and impotent. It's evident all around us.
I only scratched the surface. I shortchanged myself, and probably the people I was preaching to and teaching by not utilizing another form of study of God's word.
Using other authors' materials, commentaries and other helps can help us widen our understanding of something perhaps, but only after the work of studying God's word by ourselves and unpacking what the scriptures say are done first.
How do you "unpack" God's word and understand it? Well, that's what I'm committed to. Not only understanding it myself, but helping others know how to read, know and understand it as well. I'm in this process now going on about fourteen weeks. We call it "Word Ministry". My teachers have been amazing. God's word is coming more alive to me than ever before.
P.S. Is the teaching you're sitting under need to go a bit deeper into God's word? Do this little test. It doesn't mean your teacher is not prepared at all. It may mean that they are using the old common method. Ask yourself if some of these red flags are present...
1. Are there lots of quotes from books outside of the Bible (again, not evil but must be careful)?
2. Is there a catchy title and a few points that all seem to fit nicely together?
3. Are there random Bible verses that are all seemingly connected to the point of the teaching?
4. Is the theme of the message being taught simply not found in the Bible?
5. Can you take the same message and teach it in Haiti, the slums of Mexico or impoverished parts of North America?
6. Are the points of the teaching actually found in the text of the verses being taught OR are the points surmised and taken from the collective proofs of other random verses?
Don't let anyone convince you to settle for a "we've never done it that way before" mentality. There's more in that Bible of yours. Go find it!
If you would like to know more about "word ministry" email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can begin to dialogue about the process and perhaps find someone in your area that is committed to it and maybe help you even more. Perhaps, if I can boil it down to put into words on a web page, I can attempt to explain it. Really though, it is such an organic process, and done very well in groups, it is better taught in person. It literally takes hours and hours, perhaps days and weeks to study a passage of scripture thoroughly. No shortcuts.