In my Bible reading this week, I came across a verse that jumped out at me. It’s funny how you can read the Bible often and only be looking at the words, not thinking about them. Well, that happens to me anyway. Before I know it, I’ve gotten halfway or three-fourths through a chapter and I can’t recall what I just read! I had been thinking about the day’s activities, or someone I needed to email, or about a person who is an irritation – everything except God’s words! I have to go back and start over again.
As I was reading Nehemiah 8 on Sunday, I saw a verse that reminded me of my husband:
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. ~ Nehemiah 8:8
- The law of God was read distinctly.
- The sense was given.
- Understanding was received.
There are two main types of preaching (or, two most popular styles): Expositional and Topical.
Expostional preaching is when a passage is read, and then it is explained word-by-word, or phrase-by-phrase, in light of the whole Bible.
Topical preaching is when a topic is chosen and many verses from the Bible are used to teach on that idea. For example, a study on “words” would use passages from Proverbs, Matthew, Ephesians, James and perhaps more.
Both types of preaching are needed. The only danger in any style of preaching (from my layperson’s perspective) is that the scripture might be taken out of context.
I have a pastor who reads God’s Word every time he preaches. It may be hard to believe, but I have been in services where the Bible was not read, it was just quoted from memory by the preacher. I’ve also been in services where the pastor just reads a scripture and then goes on and on for an hour, never leading the listener back to the Bible at all. In preaching, the Bible should be front and center.
I have a pastor who gives the true sense of the Scripture. He resists “spiritualizing” texts, or using a text to represent something else. For example, the story of David and Goliath. Goliath represents the world, David represents Christians, the brook is the Holy Spirit. David got five stones from the brook. He got the stone of standards, the stone Scripture, the stone of supplication, the stone sacrificial giving, and the stone steadfastness. Of course, this is not true to the passage at all. I know that there are ways to apply texts to real life situations, but the hearer must be careful not to take spiritulizations as literal Bible teaching. They are pictures that can help us, but they are not the actual “sense” of the Scripture.
I have a pastor who helps us receive understanding. It is easy for me to read a verse and think that I understand it. I have pre-suppositions from a lifetime of church attendance and book-reading. And, sometimes, I’m wrong. (I know that’s a shock.) I am thankful that when I open my Bible each Sunday and Wednesday at church, I am fed and taught what God wants me to learn.
Lastly (and this isn’t from the verse), I have a pastor who is humble. He doesn’t stand behind that sacred desk and believe that he has all the answers. He does his best and asks God to bless it; to do a work in the hearts of people that no man can do. He often tells me on the way home from church, “Well, that was terrible.” But God can take what we call “terrible” and make it “useful” or even “wonderful”.
No, my pastor isn’t perfect. I happen to be married to him, so I know that better than anyone. (And he knows that about me more than any other church member!) But I see him fight for holiness in his private life. I see him struggle to understand God’s Word both through research and prayer. I see that he is doing his best to preach just as Nehemiah 8:8 describes. My prayer is that he will always be as he is now.