While growing up in Roanoke Virginia back in the 50’s and 60’s going to church was normal for me. I grew up in church from my birth until now. Of course my Dad Everette T. Whisnant was a preacher / pastor for over forty four years. Hearing preaching was normal too, not only on Sunday but during the week. I had a heart felt desire to preach and teach and to know the Bible.
Preaching was the heart beat of my soul. I loved hearing preachers preach. I wanted to preach like those who I heard. Oliver B. Greene. Charles Fuller, M.R. DeHaan. Billy Graham, Billy Martin, V.B. Vick, and the list could go on. Then I went to seminary to learn to preach. I loved the preaching of Wayne Martin, and Raymond Barber, and Earl Oldham and George Norris. They were really great preachers. But how to preach like them was the desire. But I don’t remember of having one class on preaching. I guess I am still bad over that last point.
We would be horrified to hear of a surgeon who had just two weeks of training operating on someone’s brain. As important as brain surgery is, I believe the job of the preacher is far more important. Eternal souls hang in the balance, and great care and attention is needed to ensure that a teaching is theological, sound, healthy and accurate. A teacher of the Bible needs training in the science of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). But we also need to know how to gain an accurate knowledge of the Word of God. Simply knowing the science of how to is not like understanding the knowledge you have.
Some people think that if God wants you to know something about the Bible, He will just reveal it to you supernaturally. Just ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration, and understanding? That was what I was advice in Seminary. I really never believed God sent a sermon by mail. Maybe by the Sword of the Lord though.
1 Tim 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” Correct interpretation requires work; sometimes, a great deal of hard work.
We are also told to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Without diligent study, it is easy to wrongly divide the word; to believe and to teach error.
The main way this takes place is because we draw wrong inferences from the text – when we read into the text things that are not actually said by the text, and draw out of the text things that are actually not there (known as eisegesis). Sadly, this happens all too frequently.
As I look back so much of what I was hearing from preachers was preaching that was taking the text they were using out of context. They often was just talking about things that was not even in the scriptures they were teaching.
Know the text, understand the text before you try to preach the text.
The photo: Everette and Pauline Whisnant in the early 60’s. The second Dad’s church in Roanoke, Virginia at Orange Ave Baptist Church in 1952.