For all the discord and disconnection that social media seems to unintentionally generate, it can also help us, believe it or not, make new friends—real friends.
Kevin Halloran and I connected on social media a few years ago. He works in Christian ministry, loves to write, and is heavily involved in a church in the same denomination as me. All this means we have a lot in common.
Once, when I posted a picture on Instagram of a “rejection email” I received about an article I had submitted for publication, Kevin shot me a direct message, letting me know of another website that might want the piece. He was right. They did.
A few weeks ago we were able to hang out in person, and he told me more about his ministry. Kevin works for Leadership Resources, an organization that equips and encourages pastors around the world “to teach God’s word with God’s heart.” They provide pastoral training made for missions. (Their website has lots of information about how you can partner with LRI to ignite movements of God’s Word worldwide.)
Kevin gave me a booklet that Leadership Resources produced to help train people to teach the Bible. This is an important topic for me. In fact, last year I wrote a series of blog posts about this very topic. The booklet is incredibly helpful, not only to me as a professional Bible teacher but also for every Christian who wants to grow in their ability to teach the Bible.
Below is an excerpt from the booklet called “Traveling Instructions.” This principle explains why it is imperative that we understand the original context and the author’s intent before we apply a passage to us. If you want to get the whole Dig and Discover booklet, it can be downloaded for free.
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Dig and Discover Hermeneutical Principles, "Traveling Instructions," page 5
The Principle: In order for us to understand how to apply God’s Word to our lives today, we first need to travel back to understand the message expressed through the author in the original context.
How Does Traveling Instructions Work?
(1) Not Taking the Direct Route. We are often tempted to read God’s Word and try to apply what is said directly to our lives. But God first spoke through the heart of an author to readers in a different time and place. And so, instead of taking a direct route from God’s Word to our lives today, we first need to travel back to consider what that author was saying to the original readers, and why.
(2) Hearing the Intent of the Author. We must travel back to listen to what God was saying through an author in the original context – the literary context of the message of the book, the historical context of the background situation, and even the biblical context of the overall story and message of the Bible. And while here are many aspects of context which we could explore, we want to focus our attention on those aspects which help us understand what the author was saying, why he said this to these people, and what response he desired from his message.
(3) Applying the Message to Us Today. The end goal of Traveling Instructions is application. After we have discovered the author’s intended response to the message he gave, we can then travel to our day and ask how that response would be seen in our lives and in the lives of the people where we live and minister.
Why Is Traveling Instructions Important?
If we take the shortcut and try to immediately apply God’s Word to our lives, we risk misinterpreting what God was saying through His Word, missing the way God intends for us to respond, and misleading the people to whom we minister.
However, when we do take the time to travel correctly, we discover the wonder of God’s heart expressed through the original context, and the transforming power of His Word for our lives today.
* On this principle, the booklet has this footnote: “Based on original material © The Proclamation Trust with kind permission, www.proctrust.org.uk.”