Lucky me, no one asked me the question they probably needed to. Well, one day I was preaching from one of the books of the Old Testament and in order to prepare the sermon I picked up a catchy passage from a chapter. Using that as the key verse I then selected some other verses from the New Testament to support it and then to break down the topic into layers of sub-headings. Had someone in the audience asked me questions about the background and historical conditions of the key verse I was using I knew I would have some tough moments, especially if the question was something I was totally unprepared for. And that would have embarrassed me before the whole crowd. Of course, we aren’t under any obligation to have all the answers to all the questions but if we are to follow Paul’s exhortation then we ought to be prepared with the Word of God at all times.
At Nehemiah Institute, I basically used to teach on Spiritual Growth and the New Testament Church. However, this time I’ve also started teaching on some books of the Bible. These are basically introduction to the historical and cultural background and other relevant facts about the various books of the Bible. This was my first time and I taught on seven different books of the Old Testament, which was quite fair for the starting, I guess. Going through the detail introductions and accounts of each one of those seven books and making an overall assessment was quite a laborious and mentally tiring task to do. However, the payoff was fabulous. In my 20 years of studying the Bible there were things I was discovering for the first time. Thus, I could safely say that I was teaching myself more than the students.
David Pawson in his extensive work entitled, “Unlocking the Bible – A unique overview of the whole Bible”, speaks about the three different approaches to reading the Bible. The first one is the verse-centered approach (self) in which we look for a word for ourselves. In this approach “we read through until a verse fits our situation”. He humorously calls it ‘the horoscope method of Bible reading’. The second approach is the passage-centered approach (others) where we “read the Bible mainly for the sake of other people”. Of course, this is popular with preachers and teachers just as I have mentioned above about myself. The last one is the “best approach” in which we read the whole book rather than just parts of it. The author reinforces that, “only by doing this can we really understand what God is saying to us though it” (page 612 – 614). May the Lord increase our spiritual appetite to read the Bible and the things in it wholly.
Nowadays, an average English Bibles would have an introduction at the beginning of each book. Sadly, most of us avoid reading them. I believe a lot of efforts have been put into it to make it available for us. Though it might appear dull and unnecessary it actually helps us to know what we are reading with a clearer understanding and perspective. For example, there could be those who are totally oblivion to the fact that some of what we call the “minor” prophets actually lived and ministered before some of the “major” prophets. Similar is the case in the New Testament. In other words, several books in the Bible are not in their chronological order. And as long as we are unaware of this fact it’ll give us the obvious wrong impression that the events in the Bible occurred historically and chronologically according to the present arrangement of the books in the Bible. Of course, such issues aren’t going to shake our faith but as both a Bible student and a teacher it would help a lot to know the historical background and other related facts about the books in the Bible. Therefore, adding some Bible commentaries, dictionaries or Bible encyclopedia to our library would certainly enhance our Bible study and research. In fact, with a computer and an internet connection one can have a whole Bible library without paying a dime. I was shock one day when I saw the price of some of the Bible commentaries and encyclopedias, which came in volumes in a Bible store. In India, the price of such volumes would actually be a monthly salary for some. I was so excited at that time knowing that I had those Bible resources and many other more in my computer which came along with some Bible software I was using. Of course, we may all be aware of e-sword. Another one that I enjoy using is The Word. Then of course there are many others not to mention of the availability of countless online Bible study tools. Even if in case you don’t have an internet connection but own a computer you can still have those software by downloading it from a cyber café or from your friends who’s connected to the net. But then of course, roaming your fingers across the pages of those books, highlighting some phrases and sentences with colorful pens and scribbling a little note in the corner of the pages of the hard copy has its own different feel altogether. Whatever the case, it’ll help a lot to have a mini Bible library of your own.
Today we spend hours on social networking and other sites when in fact we could have spent half or even less than half of those times in our Bible study and discover truths that would bolster our faith and others’ too. After logging out of some of those sites I look at the time and relenting how much time I had just wasted began to wish if I had only spent the same amount of time in reading His Word or talking to Him or yet reading other books for my spiritual edification.
The world is infiltrating the church today in a much deeper and insidious manner than we could have ever thought. Most of the Christians today have only religion but less or nothing of Christ and His truth. And though many factors account for such a pathetic state of the church, much of it is also because of the lack of proper teaching in the church. Pastors today look upon themselves more as preachers and evangelists and thus miss out much on the ministry of teaching. In listing out the qualification of an elder or a pastor in 1st Tim 3, Paul clearly mentions the ability to teach as one of the prerequisites. Teaching requires a lot of efforts in studying, researching, meditation and of course prayer. I wonder if laziness could therefore be the reason why some pastors shirk away from the ministry of teaching. In a certain town in a pastors’ meeting discussion was making the round as to who would do the teaching sessions at their upcoming conference. Most of the pastors decline from taking the responsibility with the excuse that they were preachers and not teachers. I wonder if they had forgotten that a pastor should be “able to teach”. Such conferences also portray the evening meeting as the main highlight of the day where they have a preacher to stimulate and tickle the emotion of the people. “More crowd, more noise and more coverage and therefore the allurement to prefer to rather be a preacher than a teacher”, is what one of my pastor friend critiqued. And I think that he’s right.
Over and over again, the apostle Paul in his epistles, especially that of Timothy and Titus urges the leaders to be diligent to teach the church the whole counsel and the sound doctrine of the Word of God. Would the apostle have something different to say to us today? We need to get back to the school of discipleship, the school of meditating in the Word of God at the feet of Christ. We need to revive the ministry of teaching in our churches today. And therefore, once again we need to jump to our feet and get back to our Bibles, to those Bible resources, and with all the getting we need to get the Holy Spirit’s anointing to learn and to teach. Amen!
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