Believe me, I know I don’t have it all together when it comes to student ministry…or anything else. But I do like to talk to other youth pastors a lot and ask them not only WHAT they are teaching their students, but I’m also wanting to hear HOW they are teaching their students. Content is not the only key when it comes to preaching and teaching, but delivery is very important as well.
I had a very close friend of mine contact me the other day who is a new youth pastor at his church. He emailed me the lesson that he was preparing for his teenagers, and he warned me that it wouldn’t be as deep as what we do in our student ministry because his students weren’t yet ready for the depth. After reading over what he had prepared for his students, I could tell that his preparation time took hours of study, hours of planning, and it would have taken me hours to teach everything he had down on his sermon notes!
What he was doing was fine. I think the most important part of preaching and teaching is being faithful to the Word of God, and point people to the person and work of Christ in every passage. But let me ask you, why do we preach sermons with points? Why do we preach in such an organized, bulletted, outlined kind of way? We don’t talk this way with one another. We don’t tell a story with roman numerals and sub-points mixed in. And to be honest, the apostles didn’t preach to the early churches in this way. NEITHER WAS THE BIBLE WRITTEN IN THIS WAY! So how do we talk to one another? How did the apostles preach and teach? How is Scripture written? Story!
Every verse of Scripture is a part of a larger story in context. Its much easier to understand this in narrative portions of Scripture, but even the obscure laws connect to the larger story of Leviticus and the stories of the lives of the Israelites who were breaking the laws. The Psalms obviously connect with the story of life as does the Proverbs. Even the Epistles of Paul are constantly connected to the big story of the gospel. In fact, that is true of every verse of Scripture. Better yet, every letter of Scripture is just a small part of one big picture, one over-all story: God bringing glory and building the Kingdom of Christ, His Son.
So how do we do this when we preach the Bible? I follow a very easy, personally made structure of my sermons. I tell a story introducing the passage (not the topic), then I tell the story of the passage while I read the Scripture and explain the context, then I tell a story as an illustration to help understand the passage, then I connect it with the story of Jesus Christ and His gospel, and then I conclude it with a story of how it affects our life today.
How do we do this when we teach systematic theology? Again, I usually follow a very easy, personally made structure of my lessons. I tell a story introducing the doctrine, then I give a few different views of people who oppose what we believe about the doctrine, then I give the storyline of the doctrine found in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation and how it changes with the covenant of Christ, and lastly I connect it with their life story as I seek to apply it to their lives.
Hear me out, I’m not a part of the emerging church where all they preach is narrative and the only real true is up to the hearer to interpret it any way they would like. But I also don’t believe that the Bible is a bunch of doctrinal truths that are illustrated with stories. I believe that the Scripture is one true story and Jesus Christ is the star. I believe that the one true story of Jesus Christ from Genesis to Revelation is interpreted with doctrinal truths all throughout the story. Therefore, let me encourage you to think less like an engineer, less like a research paper outliner, and less like super-structured systematic theology professor. Let me encourage you to think more like someone who can connect with every person on this earth in the way that you can interweave all of Scripture into the rock-hard truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is able to change every story of every life it comes into contact with.