The Leader’s Approach/Attitude Toward Scripture
As some of you know, I spent 37 years on staff with The Navigators. I am thankful for quite a few things as a result of those years. One thing that significantly stands out to me (and that I treasure to this day) is an approach and an attitude toward God’s Word.
I was taught (and had it modeled for me) to get into God’s word devotionally, not just doctrinally. I was taught to view scripture not just theologically, but practically. When we did Bible study, which happened every week, with an investment of 3-6 hours per week working our way through a book of the Bible chapter by chapter, we asked ourselves:
1. What does the passage say? - Information
2. What does the passage mean? - Interpretation
3. What does the passage mean to me? - Application
As young leaders in training, we were all encouraged to work our way through all three phases without consulting any commentaries or helps until after we had spent several hours in just scripture and scripture alone.
One verse that has been a mainstay for me for fifty years is Ezra 7:10:
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (ESV).
I originally memorized it in the Berkeley translation which rendered “set his heart” as “disciplined himself” and rendered “do it” as “practice it.”
1. DISCIPLINE MYSELF
2. STUDY IT
3. PRACTICE IT
4. TEACH IT
Where am I going with all this? (And, yes, I do have a point!)
I have been coming to the conclusion over the last few years that a lot of leaders approach the Bible doctrinally/theologically but not practically/devotionally. It is mostly for their heads, not for their hearts. In some cases, the only time these leaders are in scripture is when they are preparing to teach it to others.
I believe that God is deeply interested in what’s going on in my heart, not just my head. Maybe we have succumbed to too much head knowledge and not enough heart knowledge. “Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverb 4:23 (ESV) Emphasis mine.
We are encouraged in I Timothy 4:16 to keep a close watch on ourselves as well as on our teaching. Sometimes I get a sense that in many leadership circles there is an over emphasis on the teaching and an under emphasis on the life behind the teaching. More emphasis on competence than on character, from which ministry should flow. We have become much better at monitoring our teaching than monitoring our heart…heart-level application of what we’re learning from scripture.
“When your public performance becomes too far removed from who you are in your heart, you’ve been set up for trouble”- Andy Stanley in Enemies of the Heart.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this disconnect is that in many Bible schools, seminaries and leadership development programs there is too much focus on what’s going on in the head as it relates to scripture and not enough on what’s going on in the heart. That needs to change.
As leaders in His church, teaching will have more power and anointing if the life behind it is processing what is being learned on a personal and devotional level. Going from discipline and study to teaching without investing in the practicing is not what I believe the whole of scripture leads us to conclude.
It ‘s getting so bad that some preachers/teachers are buying, borrowing or outright stealing other’s sermons/teaching (giving the impression that it’s theirs) and skipping the disciplining, studying and practicing altogether.
It’s just 18 inches (approx.) from the head to the heart, but it can be the longest 18 inches in the world.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that doctrine and theological training are not essential and important. I am saying, though, that it’s not enough. God didn’t give us His Word merely to inform us but totransform us. I also believe that God would prefer to use a transformed life than an informed life.
Our ministry as leaders must flow from a life of heart (not just mind) engagement in God’s Word. I am eternally grateful that I learned this in my years with The Navigators and, by His grace, practice this approach and attitude toward scripture to this very day.
“When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:27,28 (The Message)