Time for a little rant.
I’ve often heard pastors warn about the vocational trap or tendency to not study the Bible for their own spiritual growth. If they only study to prepare for something else, the maxim goes, they aren’t feeding, just leading. Sounds dangerous.
But I have a problem with that maxim, and I’ll tell you why.
First off, it says a whole lot about how far too many pastors prepare for sermons and how they’re delivered. Because my rule is, the sermon has to go straight through my heart before I preach it and straight from my heart while I preach it. If I were just “handling a biblical text,” as some academics describe it, I suppose I’d have to agree with the maxim. But I don’t preach a text until I’ve stopped handling the text and God has started handling ME through it. If all you’re doing is handling a text you may as well be dissecting Shakespeare. Worse, your message on Sunday will be a presentation, not a sermon.
I’m not sure I EVER study scripture merely to pass it on. Seriously. That means every sermon I preach has at least started to change me personally first in some way by the time it comes out of my mouth. It’s common for me to hear comments like, “Your point about __________ really touched my heart.” And I just as often say, “Yeah, me too.”
And another thing: I never study the Bible clinically. Ever. Listen closely, people: the only kind of Bible study endorsed by the Bible itself is devotional study—that is, the kind that changes you from the inside out and builds your faith and nurtures your union with Jesus—what Peterson called “conversational exegesis.” Perhaps we ought to focus less on what we’re learning and more on where we’re being led. Where scripture is taking us. Where God himself is taking us. What its doing to us. Amen?
And lastly, the irony is we always ought to be thinking, “How can I pass this on to others?” Don’t you think? So every time you read scripture, think, “What do you have for me, Lord Jesus?” and then, in the very next breath, “Who should I share this with?”