Ever since my early years as a believer I’ve wanted to understand Scripture better. During the M.Div. program at Trinity I couldn’t get enough of the theology or the Bible intro classes. At the end of the M.Div. I felt like much of what I had learned, I really should have learned in Sunday School. Why didn’t we talk more in depth about the Trinity in Sunday School? Why didn’t we open up the book of Genesis the way we did at seminary? I felt like God’s people should have this same access to solid teaching like we got at seminary.
Helping God’s People Understand Scripture Better
I suppose that’s why I’ve always felt my calling is not to teach at a seminary—it’s to help God’s people better read Scripture and learn to live out God’s story in everyday life. Absolutely, a great way to do that is teaching at the seminary. I especially want the shepherds of God’s flock to be equipped to teach and lead God’s people so they are rooted in God’s word and living out God’s story, being salt and light wherever they are. I definitely have a strong commitment to the seminary in Slovakia, but I also sense a call to teach God’s people directly and I get an opportunity to do that just about once a month.
In our denomination in Slovakia (the Cirkev bratská, member IFFEC), the elders are often a part of the preaching rotation in their local church. Imagine yourself being an elder and preaching once a month. Do you start sweating just thinking about it?
Now suppose that the pastor has decided he’s going to take the congregation through the book of Genesis and instead of being able to preach on whatever text you want, like whatever God has been leading you through lately, your pastor has divided Genesis into preaching texts, put them on the calendar and the week you’re available to preach is the text you get—like it or not. And now imagine that the text is Genesis 5, the genealogy of Adam!
I bet you’re really sweating now.
My calling is to help God’s people better read Scripture and learn to live out God’s story in everyday life.
At this point I bet you’re really thankful for the more than 100 commentaries we have available in English that can help you navigate the text. We have technical commentaries that explain the Greek. We have preaching commentaries that help you go from text to sermon. We even have application commentaries that will help you understand how the genealogy of Adam might apply to us today.
Unfortunately, as an elder in a Slovak church, there’s a pretty good chance you’re English isn’t good enough for those commentaries to be of much help. How many commentaries are there in Slovak? One. Unfortunately, it’s written for a Roman Catholic audience. It might be of some help, but it’s not a preaching or application commentary and it comes from a tradition that puts a very different emphasis on the interpretation of Scripture.
If it were me, I’d be sweating.
In Slovakia, it’s becoming more and more common for local congregations to do a whole series on a book of the Bible. I think this is fantastic. I see preaching teams growing as elders have a more felt need to understand God’s word better. They have a greater respect for God’s word and the awesome task of preaching. But with limited resources available in Slovakia, there aren’t many places for them to turn for help in understanding the text better. So what do they do?
In our congregation, and this is becoming more common throughout Slovakia, we start each series with an introduction to the book. Sometimes, other congregations in Slovakia invite me to spend a Saturday with them to lead their preaching team through a book and kick off the sermon series on Sunday. Back in October I helped the congregation in Hermanovce with the book of Proverbs and to kick off 2023 I went to Spišská Nová Ves to help them through the book of Genesis. On Saturday from 9:00 to 5:00 we talked about the structure, the plot and the main idea of the whole book. On Sunday I preached on Genesis 1. This week, their pastor is preaching on Genesis 2. Next week an elder preaches on Genesis 3, and on they’ll go through the whole book of Genesis.
This ministry is a huge encouragement to me. I’m not alone in this either. The leadership of the Cirkev bratská in Slovakia has been emphasizing this kind of ministry for a long time. They organize a weekend every fall where both pastors and lay preachers go through a book of the Bible to be led through the process of preparing sermons from a specific book of the Bible. Then there’s the annual conference “We Have a Message to Proclaim” with international speakers who also help us understand Scripture and theology better. This April the conference speaker will take us through the book of Revelation.
I’m excited about this because I see how it’s affecting the church as a whole in Slovakia. Elders are stepping up to the challenge of learning to preach God’s Word faithfully and it’s building up the church as a whole. Above you can see Roman, who is the associate pastor of the congregation in Vitkovce, which is a Roma congregation near Spišská Nová Ves. He, the brother next to him, and a few others attended the Genesis weekend and their congregation is also going to preach through Genesis. I also had the chance to preach in their congregation for the Genesis weekend since they have services in the afternoon. For these two brothers, preaching through a book of the Bible is a completely new challenge. Pray for them! Pray especially that God will strengthen them and bless them for this service and that their congregation will grow through their ministry.