What People Need: Bible, Gospel, and the Heart
My first day in preaching class seven years ago was not dissimilar to Katie’s experience. My emotions ran wild, and they would have been a lot better had she and I met and been in the same class! I was terrified. “Can I even take this class?” I thought, as I knew I would be the only woman walking in. When I had awkwardly asked the professor that question, he practically laughed at me, as he responded, “Of course.” Didn’t I want to preach well to the women I taught?
He continued to use the term “preach” and corrected me when I defaulted to my normal terminology of “teaching.” He informed me that preaching is the biblical method God speaks of in the New Testament to help people respond to his Word. Preaching is to declare God’s message, to explain it, and to help people apply it to their lives. This is what people need.
I wanted those things. I wanted to speak to the women I served in such a way that they understood and applied the Bible well. So, I walked to the top floor and into the preaching class. Instead of the fulfillment of my ridiculous fear, I was met with welcoming smiles and encouragement. Yet I’ll never forget how my professor made me “preach” first. “Ladies first,” he said. I was so nervous I couldn’t find 2 Corinthians… which made reading it a real challenge.
As the course went on, I realized how much I had to grow when it comes to achieving that goal of declaring, explaining, and applying when I speak. To be honest, that feeling is a familiar one many years later. I often realize how much I have to grow, especially when I hear gifted preachers or read their books. It’s normal for all of us.
Verity Forum is almost here, and there’s so much for us to talk about when it comes to teaching the Bible! I’ve already asked Katie if we can do 10 workshops on this topic one day. Her enthusiasm matched mine, so we probably need someone to tell us to “simmer down.” But for now, here are three things that have been echoing in my head, taken directly from my professor on that first day of class. These are the essentials for when we stand up and speak with the Bible in hand.
1. Teach (Preach) the Bible
This week I heard someone recount how she teaches others to put together a message for a group of women in the church. First, she comes up with a topic, perhaps by looking at commercials or billboards, and then she considers her personal experience to create the outline of the message. Of course, Scripture would be included as well, she added. My eyebrows crinkled as I processed what she said.
There are times for this, I told myself. Devotional times or messages on very personal topics or practical wisdom. But primarily, I believe we need the message of the scriptures. What we believe about the importance and relevance of the Bible is revealed by whether or not we turn to it first as we prepare to stand up front with a microphone. What do we believe that people need to hear most?
Are we speaking what we want to say or have we begun by studying the scriptures and speaking what they say? Do we truly believe that the truth of the Bible is what our hearts most desperately need or do we think we can come up with something better?
2. Give Them the Gospel.
If we teach the Bible without centering it on what Jesus has done, we are chopping it up without teaching God’s main message. As Bryan Chapell says, “Without the redemptive focus, we may have believed that we have exegeted the Scriptures when in fact we have just translated its parts and parsed its pieces without reference to the role they have in God’s eternal plan.”
Without the gospel at the center, we often end up with a list of do’s and don’ts for our listeners. Or perhaps they sound something more like “be like her” or “be like him” or, the even more challenging, “be like Jesus.” I don’t know about how you feel, but those are impossible tasks…even dangerous ones… without first hearing “Jesus has acted to save and change you.” It’s only the hope of what Jesus has done and continues to do that allows us to understand, love, and obey. Moralism will get us nowhere.
3. Speak to the Heart.
Here’s where teaching becomes “preaching,” as my prof would call it. It’s never our goal to solely transfer information so we all feel smarter. Puffed heads with a good Bible vocabulary also gets us nowhere. “We don’t live as we should—not because we simply know what to do but fail to do it but rather because what we think we know is not truly real to our hearts,” Tim Keller puts it as he urges preachers to speak to the heart.
This is especially true for us women. But speaking to the heart doesn’t mean turning to emotional roller-coaster stories or sweet platitudes. Rather, we help people see the truth we are explaining from the Bible is real for their own life. We give illustrations. We show how it affects the unspoken beliefs we hold. We speak from our own hearts. We show that what Jesus has done changes everything every day.
Yes, there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to proclaiming God’s Word, but we begin and end here: The greatest thing we can do is declare the Bible, the Gospel, and to do it to the heart.
The Verity Forum is our spring event on May 7th, 2016. One of the four tracks of the day is called "Teaching the Bible" with three workshops. Taylor will be teaching the workshop titled "Your Text From Manuscript to the Microphone." You can read more about the Verity Forum workshops on the event page where you will also find downloadable media from the event.