Pastors need to be theologians

From Kingdom Come:

Missional leaders are driven by theology rather than pragmatism. There is an idea that pastors don't have the luxury of doing serious study. That is to be left for those living in ivory towers. In the real world we just need to get busy and find out what works. But pragmatism leads to theological error. Pragmatism leads to moral failure. Pragmatism leads to a human agenda.

More than ever, pastors need to be theologians.

Teaching God's story

In her excellent book on children's ministry, Ivy Beckwith writes about some of the mistakes we make in teaching the Bible. Although she is writing about the way we teach children, it applies equally to how we preach the Bible:

When we use the Bible with children simply to teach doctrinal tenets, moral absolutes, tips for better living, or stories of heroes to be emulated, we stunt the spiritual formation of our children and deprive them of the valuable, spiritual story of God. When we only distill the Bible into practical applications and little life lessons, we fail to teach children how to use the Bible as a means of understanding God's purposes in the world. We fail to give them the ability to understand their own stories in light of God's story. When we tell them what the Bible says or what to believe about what a particular Bible passage says, we rob them of the ability to experience the text themselves and pull out its meaning in their own context of their world.

In teaching kids the Bible, she says, "we cannot forget that the Bible is primarily about God and God incarnate, Jesus, and God's plan for the redemption of creation." We need material that doesn't use the Bible to "teach children moral lessons." Instead, "We need the Bible to introduce children to God, God's story, and God's ways."

Avoiding the homiletical hermeneutic

From Expository Thoughts (which quotes from a chapter in Giving the Sense by Daniel I. Block):

...Block warns against the primary pitfall facing preachers, missing the true meaning of the passage by approaching the text with a "homiletical hermeneutic." Here's how he defines his term:

By "homiletical hermeneutic" I mean an approach to the biblical text that is driven by the need to preach a sermon from the text, rather than a thirst for understanding its message in its original context (411).

He goes on to suggest six characteristics that evidence the employment of a "homiletical hermeneutic":

  1. Focusing on too short a portion of text so as to obscure the overall storyline of the narrative.
  2. In the interest of time and efficiency, inadequately "wrestling" with a particular narrative text, choosing instead to quickly identify some "preaching points" before really uncovering the text's meaning.
  3. Honing in on the text's relevance for today's hearer without thinking through its meaning as intended by its author.
  4. Superimposing Western ideas of sermonic structure on the narrative text as an interpretive grid, instead of considering how the particulars of the genre in which the text is recorded inform one's interpretation.
  5. Paying too much attention to secondary literature (read: commentaries) relating to the text, rather than prolonged consideration of the text itself.
  6. An over-emphasis on "rhetorical novelty and homiletical memorability" (412).

So, how "homiletical" is your hermeneutic?

The Bible as an answer book

From Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell:

The Bible is not pieces of information about God and Jesus and whatever else we take and apply to situations as we would a cookbook or an instruction manual.

And while I'm at it, let's make a group decision to drop once and for all the Bible-as-owner's-manual metaphor. It's terrible. It really is.

When was the last time you read the owner's manual for your toaster? Do you find it remotely inspiring or meaningful?

You only refer to it when something's wrong with your toaster. You use it to fix the problem, and then you put it away.


Inadequate divine esteem

The fundamental problem with most of us is not deficient self-esteem but inadequate divine-esteem. As we submit ourselves to God, [and recognize] that ultimately he operates for his own name's sake, and that his investment in us relates to agendas far greater than ourselves, we will treasure the grace which he reaches out to us. (Daniel I. Block, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Ezekiel: Chapter 1-24)