Does the church grow its own vegetables?
Some time ago I was quite amused when I heard the speaker at a large Christian gathering suggest that ‘the church grows its own vegetables’. Taken at face value it’s quite a witty comment; but if you go beyond the humour, there’s a serious point being made about how people are equipped in churches to engage with scripture and grow in to maturity.
The author of Hebrews (in chapter 5) rebukes the church on its lack of understanding of the most fundamental truths of God, using the analogy of infants needing milk whilst the mature feast on solid food. He uses similar language writing to the church in Corinth. As new Christians they had been supplied not only with spiritual blessings but also with every spiritual gift (1Cor1:4-9). Likewise the Corinthian believers seemed to have a taste for the breathtaking but failed to evidence a maturity which equalled their ability to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1Cor3:1-4).
Reading those passages has made me wonder if a letter from Paul or one of the other apostles to the church in the UK in 2014 would bear some of the same language characterised in 1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5?
Firstly let me say I love the church and more importantly God loves the church. It’s described as the bride of Christ and a man doesn’t take a bride who he isn’t utterly in love with! I really appreciate all that I have learnt in my local church. Without doubt I would not be the Christian I am today without it. My church has encouraged me to serve, pray and enabled me to encounter the life changing power of God. What (and I don’t think it’s on its own in this) it hasn’t been so good at is equipping me to engage with the Bible and grow into that maturity Paul is talking about; which is one of the reasons I decided to enrol at Salt & Light Ministries’ Bible School. At King’s School of Theology I’m learning to use the tools of how to interpret scripture to understand what the text meant then (exegesis) and to apply its meaning now (hermeneutics). Authors Fee & Stuart suggest that anyone attempting to read scripture are exegetes, the question is whether we are good at it or not.
So what tips or tools have I picked up at KST that I can pass on?:-
1. Get a good study bible. I tend to stick with the ESV which is more at the literal-end of the spectrum of translations, but I also use other translations to get the broadest view on the context and content of the text.
2. Reading commentaries and other helpful study aids such as bible dictionaries will enhance and deepen your understanding of passages and themes in the bible.
3. Don’t study in isolation. One of the most invaluable parts of KST is working in small groups developing thoughts and ideas alongside other people.
4. Last, but not least…Pray. Scripture is God breathed. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into truth. He is our helper and the teacher of all things. When I study passages I ask Him to inspire me and reveal the divine origin and meaning of the text.
So here I am. Nearly two years into my three year journey at KST, with lots still to learn, but attempting to use the tips and tools myself. In my private devotions I am developing a greater sensitivity to the word of God which is deepening my faith and impacting how I live out being a follower of Jesus in every sphere of my life.
Rather than being genetically modified, this vegetable is being theologically modified.