Learning to See – pastors preachers, missionaries and planters

In earlier posts I’ve talked about the preachers need to exegete or understand 3 things before preaching: God’s Word,  The Congregation and himself (see towards the end of this post). What I mean by this is that we don’t just look at the text in isolation.

1. We need to apply it so we need to think carefully about the congregation- what is the application they will need in their pastoral circumstances and what will stop them from hearing or obeying.

2. We need to be aware of ourselves. What is in my own heart? What might prevent me from hearing, communicating and applying God’s word truthfully and Effectively?

I want to expand on this in two ways.

1. Everything I’ve said here applies to wider Gospel ministry not just preaching. The pastor, missionary or church planter needs to know themselves and to know the community they are trying to reach. What is the common language (more than just words used)? What are people’s hopes and fears? What will be the obstacles to hearing. And alongside that – what about me. What affect will I have? What prejudices, personal ambitions etc may I be importing in.

2. We have one vital tool for doing all  this.  We’ve also seen here on Faithroots that General Revelation (including all we may be able to observe about a society through research, studies,  surveys etc) needs to be read through the lens of Special Revelation. In other words,  to properly exegete a community and our own hearts,  we need to let Scripture do the work. Ultimately it is God’s Word that will help us to know our own hearts and the community we live in. So, for example when  we are deciding whether something we have spotted is good, bed or indifferent, a cultural norm just to be accepted or sin an idolatry needing tw we challenged,  it’s God’s Word that will tell us that.

Now a couple of quick implications.

  1. This re-enforces the need for good quality theological training for pastors, planters and missionaries. If we are going to exegete our communities and ourselves well then that’s another good reason for taking time to learn how to do it to the best of our abilities.  It also means that we need the right sort of training.  Training for mission that doesn’t put God’s Word at the heart of it. Theological studies that try to subordinate Scripture to human philosophy are not just a waste of time but positively harmful.  Make sure that you are trained by people whose love for you and those you will minister to demonstrate that by a deep love for God’s Word. And yes I’ll keep naming names. In the UK, I would specifically encourage those looking for training towards Union School of Theology or Oak Hill.
  2. Similarly, theological training cannot be done in isolation from the local church and the local community. It’s why part of residential training must include good quality, well thought out placements. It’s why approaches like the Union Learning Communities have an important role to play. By the way, from our point of view, although Gdip provided by Union is only part time (25 hours a week), we would encourage those wishing to join our Leanring Community to come and train with us full time. Those hours spent observing others and participating in ministry yourself will be as much part of the training as classroom and book time.
  3. It’s why we need to submit to a whole life of being students of God’s Word and through that to being students of the World around us.
  4. It means that as Mike Ovey used to drill into his students, we must be ready to allow God’s Word to disagree with us
  5. It means that God’s Word and the careful exposition of it must take centre stage in our church gatherings.