I’m in the middle of a post series on fun things that I have been able to do while in ministry. You might also want to view post 1 and post 2. These activities are not in any particular order. These are just some things that I have been reflecting on recently as I begin to cross over into my 2nd year of being a lead pastor.
#3 – Saying “You’re Right”
I’ve found an interesting situation among Bible readers within our churches, and it is something that Scot McKnight eluded to in The Blue Parakeet. There are two “registers” of reading Scripture in our local churches. On the one hand, embedded in Evangelical piety is the practice to read the Bible daily for Christian devotion. One listens to God as they read the Scripture for inspiration and informed living. However, put 22 “devotion-ers” and their thoughts from the same passage side-by-side and we’d find that there might be numerous ideas of what the text may “mean” or what God is saying to them, through the text.
On the other hand, another “reading” in the local church is by those who have attained some experience in studying Scripture “scientifically” or hermeneutically. These are usually, but not exclusively, pastors with formal training in this science. The ancient aim of hermeneutics was to use an unbiased approach to ascertain the “one, true meaning” of the text. This process is extremely helpful, and carries an important posture to the text. Instead of “shoving” our thoughts on it, let’s do what we can to try to figure out what the author’s of the text were getting at. It is worth noting, however, that the use of hermeneutics has not always provided scholars with a consensus about the meaning of Scripture texts, even though they use the same scientific method. It seems that, at some level and even though we try not to, we see things as we are, not as they are.
What I’ve found is that the normal congregation member has reacted to these two types of readings of Scripture in two distinct ways.
– First, this dynamic prevents the average “devotion-er” from reading the Bible for themselves. “I don’t get the same things that you do,” they might say. Instead of engaging the text (because doing so would take years of preparation and training to do so), they simply wait for someone who is trained to share information with them.
– Second, this dynamic could lead to hostility. Instead of considering one another’s perspective on a textual reading, an unswerving commitment to one perspective causes irreparable damage, leading one, dominant perspective to stay put and the other to leave in order to find a group of people who share with his/her perspective.
In my opinion, both of these reactions cannot develop a healthy, local church environment. Therefore, I’ve found that it is helpful to consider how the fragrance of the Holy can be present along the spectrum of these different types of readings/perspectives. As the “devotion-er” seeks God and the scientist “studies” God’s word, Jesus is revealed and encourages the individual and the community.
I find it helpful to appeal to Barth’s “3 Words of God” for this dynamic. All spoken words of God (preaching, teaching, discussion, prayer and meditation, etc.) should point to the words of God (Scripture) that should ultimately point to the Word of God. (Jesus Christ of Nazareth – John 1). If God is sovereign and Jesus is our aim, I’m sure that something good will happen when our readings and discussions are applied in that direction.
So, try this out. The next time you are in a discussion with someone and their thoughts aren’t exactly yours, but they still point towards Jesus, say these words… repeat them after me, “You’re right.”
It might just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.