The Pastor and the Word: Self-Reading Preachers

Greg Strand – January 23, 2015 2 Comments

Our Theology Conference on The Doctrine of the Scriptures is next week. Daniel Doriani, one of our speakers, will address the important topic/theme, Scripture in the Life of the Pastor.

I am both encouraged and grateful he will be joining us. His keen insight into the Bible and his unique understanding in applying its truth to the life of the Christian are exemplary.

In order to whet your spiritual appetite for the feast we will receive from Doriani, here are a few excerpts from something he wrote, which reflects his thinking and preparation for our Theology Conference: How Preachers Read the Bible for Themselves

Doriani raises the question about how we approach the Scriptures. Do we approach the text in a removed manner, only seeking to discern through our exegetical studies what the text meant? Or do we approach the text in a manner that seeks to discern through our exegetical studies what the text meant so that we can move to understand what the text means for the purposes of application in the lives of the people of God today?

In a prior day, the goal was the former, and the approach was referred to as the historical-critical approach to the Scriptures. Although one can approach the Scriptures in this way, something profound and life-giving is missing: personal application. Our study of the Scriptures has a goal. This is the Christian Scriptures. The former approach can be followed by one not even a Christian. The latter requires one to be a Christian in order to discern and apply, since both require the Holy Spirit.

Although most Evangelicals are no longer following the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation, the unique temptation to Evangelical preachers is to equate biblical knowledge with spiritual maturity. By default, in practice it becomes similar with a common end result: the Scriptures are for preaching to others, not to oneself.

Doriani does not address the two disciplines of biblical interpretation and application separately but rather as two aspects of our approach to the Scriptures. He writes, “Proper reading of Scripture always seeks faithful practice. We understand Scripture when we know how to use it. . . . the faithful believer should never study Scripture in a detached way. . . . leaders ought to read the Bible with an eye to apply it both for the church and also for themselves.” It is critical to remember this Book, the Bible, is the Christian Scriptures, so we approach is as such, and we are Christians, so we respond to it as such.

The question is then asked: How do or should we approach the Scriptures? Why is it that we need regular reminders and exhortations to read the Scriptures, with the right focus of interpretation and application? In response, Doriani traces the various mile-markers of a believer’s approach to Scripture that shed keen insight into the answer. I include excerpts of this five-fold progression.

  • As a new Christian, the future pastor’s reading is naïve and devotional. He devours Scripture, underlining virtually every word in his new Bible. He feels that God speaks directly to him.
  • After a few years, the budding leader’s reading becomes sophisticated and devotional. He still feels that God speaks to him in Scripture, but he has learned to read texts in their contexts, to attend to genre and more.
  • The future pastor decides to go to seminary, where he becomes a technical reader. He studies Greek, Hebrew, and scholarly sources. He respects the distance between his world and Scripture’s. But as technical skill grows, edification declines. The Bible used to read him, now he reads it, even dissects it, grammatically and linguistically.
  • Eventually, the future pastor remembers that he aims to edify the church. He continues to read technically, but now shares his findings with believers. He becomes a technical and functional reader. His reading may be rather detached personally, but he treasures and organizes his discoveries so he can teach others.
  • A wise pastor wants to become a technical, devotional reader. Every technical skill remains, but he reads like a child, letting the Word speak directly to him again.

Where are you in this progression?

I trust many of you will be in attendance at our Theology Conference. You will hear the rest of Doriani’s thoughts on this important topic, along with many others addressing additional topics related to the Scriptures.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to The Pastor and the Word: Self-Reading Preachers

  1. Well said, Greg, much to consider. Thanks for all your early prep on the conference. I’m looking forward to attending next week.

    • You are welcome, John. There is much to consider, to be sure. I am encouraged to hear you will be attending. I am grateful to the Lord for how He has brought this together, and I remain prayerful for the impact this conference will have on and in the lives of those in attendance.

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