Preaching and parenting have a lot in common. Both pastors and parents are having to constantly think about the long game—meaning they are strategically thinking, planning, and pursuing lead measures that would take their people (whether congregation or kids) from point A to point B. Of course, that isn’t to say that there isn’t short term strategy or on-the-go learning opportunities when it comes to both parenting and pastoring; just that neither parent nor pastor should only live and operate under the short game mindset.
Goals need to be set. Objectives clearly defined. And lead measures put in place that would help you lead your family or your church from this point to another along the path of discipleship.
Now, for pastors, a lot of those long-term goals are going to be relative to their church, community, and the overall mission behind their ministries. Not only that, but the execution of those goals will look different from church to church, pastor to pastor. Nonetheless, there are clearly articulated long-term goals that do transcend church differences and personalities.
For starters, we are all called to make disciples, right? We are all called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, right? There are lots of biblical long-term goals all churches are called to pursue, even if the execution of getting to those goals looks different for each church.
Reading the Bible Should Be a Long-Term Goal.
Let me suggest another long-term goal that I believe transcends across the board for all pastors to pursue: teach your people how to read their Bibles. In other words, equip those under your care with a hermeneutical skill set that will pay long-term dividends as they engage with the Scriptures in personal study. As those called to correctly teach the word of truth, part of that calling means equipping others to know how to rightly divide that word of truth as well (2 Timothy 2:15).
Now, I’m sure the overwhelming majority of pastors and Bible study leaders would agree that this is a worthwhile goal to pursue. But how? Going back to language of long-term planning above, what are those lead measures and goals that a pastor can do in the short game that will have the long-term benefit of helping people know how to read the Bible?
While there several options available, I think the argument can be made that the best way to teach your people biblical interpretation skills is doing so informally through the medium of preaching each week. In other words, teach them biblical hermeneutics by modeling faithful interpretation and application of the text each week through your sermons.
Chances are, many pastors already share a lot of commonalities when it comes to sermon prep—commonalities like: texts are carefully selected, study is prayerfully undertaken, notes are thoughtfully prepared, and, by God’s grace, delivery is faithfully executed. But in that preparation process, are you, pastor, intentionally thinking of ways that your sermons each week will provide hermeneutical building blocks in the minds of your listeners in such a way that while they may not know they are being taught hermeneutics, they are in fact being equipped little by little with a long-term view in mind?
So what are some practical ways your sermons can help with these hermeneutical building blocks? Three quick things:
1) Teach your people how to ask the right questions of the text through your sermons.
It’s important to remember that one of the greatest teaching tools at the disposal of those who regularly preach and teach is the tool of repetition. Any elementary or secondary school teacher will tell you that repetition is one of the most effective tools in their arsenal of best teaching practices. If you can get students repeating over and over again their lines for the school play or the way calculate the mass of an atom in chemistry class, the more likely successful they’ll be.
The same principle applies in the context of preaching as well. If you are constantly repeating similar questions each week—whether explicitly or tacitly—regardless of what text you are in, your people will pick up on that and will adopt the same habit in their personal study as well.
Questions like, “What does this text say about God?,” “What does this text communicate about humanity?,” or “How does this text challenge me to think, feel, and act differently toward other people?” are great ways to signpost in the minds of your people that they should be asking similar questions.
2) Teach your people to connect the dots of Scripture and see Jesus in every sermon.
The events surrounding the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 is a great model to use in our own preaching. Here we have a situation where the resurrected Jesus, in talking with two disciples, methodically walks them through the storyline of Scripture, helping them connect the dots along the way by showing how all of Scripture is ultimately pointing to the promised Messiah.
Similarly, as preachers we should equip our people to see all of the signs, symbols, and pointers to Jesus throughout Scripture in hopes that by seeing more of Jesus, they too would say with the disciples, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
3) Teach your people to hide God’s Word in their hearts in every sermon.
Part of developing a healthy hermeneutic for our people involves helping them to know how to rightly live and apply the truth of Scripture. After all, the goal of hermeneutics isn’t to merely understand the meaning of Scripture, but to internalize it, cherish it, and allow it to renew our minds and hearts. Part of teaching this will come from modeling it in one’s personal life to the people you lead. However, teaching how to apply and internalize Scripture will inevitably begin with your sermons. Teach people how to rightly apply Scripture, and then model that application for them in your daily interactions with them and others.
There are certainly other hermeneutical building blocks you can be intentionally showcasing to your people through your sermons or Bible studies each week. Just remember that being intentional in this area means crafting a long-term strategy of equipping your people with the needed skill set of correctly understanding the word of truth.