I recently listened to the panel discussion from TGC’s 2011 national conference, “They Testify about Me: Preaching Jesus and the Gospel from the Old Testament.” I was struck by something Tim Keller said about the early years of his preaching ministry: “I realized I didn’t know Scripture well enough to preach Christ.”
This candid admission coming from this seasoned preacher resonated with me. I’m convinced that if my preaching will be both true to the text and focused on Christ, I must know the Bible better than I do now. I must saturate my heart and mind with all Scripture. As long as I am content to splash in the shallows—those passages I’m comfortable with—I will not grow in my ability to preach Christ from all Scripture. I must wade in above my head, exploring passages I know less about.
This summer there are two ways in which I seek to saturate my heart and mind with Scripture:
First, I’m listening to Scripture on audio nearly every spare moment of the day and night using the Bible.is ESV drama edition. Within the past two weeks, I have been able to listen to Exodus through 2 Samuel (seven OT books). The ESV drama edition brings the text to life with different vocal actors, background music and sound effects. Sometimes these effects can be distracting, but overall they have helped bring out the human side to the events and situations. Another advantage to reading the Bible this way is that it forces me to go much slower than I would if I were merely reading it on the written page. When I finish listening to the Bible this way, my plan is to listen to a different version (without the music, drama and sound effects).
Second, I have been developing a document entitled “Notes on the Whole Bible.” The document is organized by book of the Bible, with individual chapters as subheadings. I’m trying to focus my notes on big picture connections I see as I read the Bible. I’m not so tied to working on this that I feel like I have to be constantly writing as I listen to Scripture. But there are two main advantages to having this sort of document in progress. First, it forces me to articulate those big-picture connections I see as I read the Bible, ensuring that I’m not just hearing Scripture, but processing it. Second, it is a resource I can go to when I preach from those books of the Bible in the future.
My hope is that reading and writing about Scripture in this intensive way will not only help me become a better preacher, but help me know and love Jesus more.