My dad recently came home from a writers’ conference where he picked up a book and a new DVD for us to proof for our children. The book was entitled Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by the creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer (more commonly known as the voice of Bob the Tomato). Before reading the book, I looked at the DVD case which was entitled . While I was cautiously excited that Phil Vischer had created a new company called Jelly Fish Labs, I was also concerned. It looked as if the series was going to be a really low-budget, thrown together show. Instead of computer animated characters It featured puppets that didn’t look especially engaging—at least to an adult. That wasn’t my only concern, however.
I confess that, more often than not, I am a Veggie Tales fan. I’ll even admit that I’ve watched Veggie Tales video without children present and have actually enjoyed the experience immensely. However, nobody has to see many episodes to realize that Veggie Tales is a bit lacking in spiritual depth. The show teaches good biblical principles to children in a creative, funny, and clean way that’s entertaining for everyone—so I am not complaining. I own many of the Veggie Tales stories and frequently hum some of Larry’s Silly Songs. Plus, Veggie Tales DVDs reinforce the values and principles that my wife and I are teaching our children—and our children really enjoy them. But, honestly, how much insight into Scripture could my kids really glean from a Bible-overview from the Veggie guy?
5. Begin a chronological list of every Bible message you teach or preach, noting text (or topic), date, place, occasion and attendance (estimate this latter figure). Again, this can be kept manually or on computer (but be sure and regularly back up and keep a copy remotely if you do). This list is valuable for a number of reasons—it will keep you from giving the same message to the same audience (I’ve done that before!); negatively, it will show you what subjects you have neglected to teach or preach. I did not start to keep such a list until the early 1990s when I began going to Romania (there it proved essential, since I speak so often in so many places—in some places just once, in others hundreds of times). Your list can also be consulted when you are looking for a message topic or text—in the nature of the case, I taught the same lesson to jail inmates about once every 7-8 months when I was active in that ministry, since there was constant turnover in the jail, and many Biblical passages are ideally suited for such an audience. When I was preparing for a Bible study at the jail and was stuck for a text or topic, consulting my list brought ideas immediately to mind.
And keep on file a copy of every outline you prepare, though I will admit to having trouble deciding how to file them—in Biblical order by text? In chronological order by date? In logical order by topic? A copy under each of these orders? Because I often have trouble deciding, many of my hardcopy outlines are conserved in a jumbled stack several inches thick.
I was recently asked to serve as a mentor for a student taking courses in a Bible college. I compiled a selection of practical suggestions for this student. Perhaps my suggestions to him may be of some use to others.
1. Begin keeping a journal to record your thoughts, life events, ideas, quotes found in reading, observations, plans, etc. This will serve you well for review, reflection, and more. I have kept a regular (though not daily) journal since 1977. I have tried bound (blank-book) and spiral notebooks, and prefer the latter (I have about 60 volumes of journals). And you should go back from time to time and re-read what you wrote (I recently re-read my journal for most of 2009). It will remind you of things that ever-so-quickly slip from memory.
2. Keep a list of all books you read, noting author, title, date, total pages, and an evaluation (“review”) of the book, noting good and bad points. I commonly make my own index—written inside the back cover—of every book I read of thoughts, quotes, information, etc. that were of interest to me, or that I may wish to access in the future. Often times, a mere glance at a list of books I read 5, 10, even 20 years ago will stir up memories of their contents, memories buried deep in my mind and not consciously remembered in years. This list can be kept either as a computer file or as a hard copy. Keeping this list of books read as a database allows sorting by author, title, date, etc., which facilitates answering some questions: How many books have I read by this author? When did I read such and such a book? How many times have I read this volume? Obviously, what we read affects what we know, and how we perceive things. Tell me what books a man has read and which ones he values most, and I will tell you what he is.
The following is reprinted with permission from Paraklesis, a publication of Baptist Bible Seminary. The article first appeared in the Summer ‘09 issue.
I want to address just one facet of the question in this essay. The primary purpose of Baptist Bible Seminary is to train pastors. We have made a deliberate choice to focus on only one narrow slice of graduate-level biblical-theological education. I am thinking first and foremost of the pastor when I think of the place of the biblical languages in the curriculum. In its biblical portrait, the central focus in pastoral ministry is the public proclamation of the Word of God. There are certainly other aspects of pastoral ministry, but it can be no less than preaching if it is to be a biblical pastoral ministry.
I have some serious concerns about the state of the pulpit these days. My concern could be stated fairly well by adapting the wording of 1 Sam. 3:1 and suggesting that biblical preaching is rare in our day, and a word from God is infrequently heard from our pulpits. Some of today’s best known preachers echo the same sentiment. John Stott, for example, says that “true Christian preaching…is extremely rare in today’s Church.”1
As those who stand in the pulpit and open the Word of God to a local congregation, pastors have the same charge as that with which Paul charged Timothy: “Preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). That is an awesome responsibility. The apostle Peter reminds us that “if anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Pet 4:11).