how to use the Bible in personal ministry

Connecting the Stories: How to Use Scripture in Personal Ministry

1. Some passages speak more clearly to certain issues that others, but all passages provide a lens through which to view any issue.

2. In ministry to others, we move from life to text or text to life.

3. Some passages are more easily used in ministry situations than others.

4. Major on connections that arise from the passage as a whole, not so much on isolated phrases.

5. Remember that all passages are linked some way to Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.

Adapted from the book, CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet, Michael R. Emlet. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2009. 83-88.

Read the Introduction and Chapter 1 (PDF)

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implications for reading and using the Bible

Read back to front and front to back.

It means rereading any text in light of the end of the story–the coming of the kingdom in Jesus Christ. The end of the story forces you to see earlier parts in a new light. Details matter. Think about an accident scene investigation. The end of the story is clear; the debris lies on the road to prove it. Go back to the future. The end of the story only makes sense in light of what has come before. “Bidirectional reading” does justice to the unity and diversity of Scripture.

Bigger Bible, richer ministry.

Knowing that all parts of the Bible make unique contribution to the whole give us the courage and motivation to read and apply the Scriptures widely and deeply.

The centrality of God’s mission.

Seeing the Bible as a unified story of God’s redemptive mission helps us avoid introspective, individualistic application.

Bidirectional living.

No matter where you are in Scripture, you should feel the inexorable pull forward to where history will end up. The Bible shows us that we cannot live as mere “present tense” Christians. Our present moments are framed by God’s past acts of redemption and by the glorious future he has planned.

Interpretation and application are a community affair.

Scripture addresses communities with few exceptions [3 John, Philemon]. The Bible is God’s story and our story before it is really my story.

Adapted from the book, CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet, Michael R. Emlet. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2009. 53-62.

Read the Introduction and Chapter 1 (PDF)

What the Bible is Not [Primarily]

The Bible is not primarily a book of do’s and don’ts.

This view of Scripture rightly recognizes that commands, exhortations, and prohibitions are throughout the Bible. Obedience matters, and that obedience has very specific contours. Several problems arise with using the Bible principally as a kind of “rule book” for life. Much of the Bible seems to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. And an exclusive focus on commands paradoxically may minimize the God who graciously redeems us.

The Bible is not primarily a book of timeless principles for the problems of life.

First, there is a continues tendency to overlook historical, cultural, and social aspects of the Bible. Rather than draw out principles from texts, it is all too east to read principles into a text to support a cherished belief especially when a text is detached from its particular place in God’s redemptive history. Second, the Bible leans towards the triumph of the principle over the person.

The Bible is not primarily casebook of characters to imitate or avoid.

It’s natural to empathize with the people God has placed in your life. A character or example oriented approach can highlight that God reveals Himself to people who have the same basic problems we do. However, it does;t necessarily help us understand the overall plot [Jesus and His redemptive work] that incorporates all of these characters, praiseworthy or not.

The Bible is not primarily a system of doctrines.

This can minimize the depth and breadth of biblical wisdom. And if you’re a hammer-everything’s-a-nail syndrome, you will have a tendency to approach texts expecting [and perhaps seeking] to support certain theological beliefs.

Adapted from the book, CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet, Michael R. Emlet. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2009. 25-36.

Read the Introduction and Chapter 1 (PDF)