Vince Lombardi is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. He won five championships and had a playoff record of 9-1.  His first day of practice tradition is my favorite Lombardi legend. Each year Lombardi would gather sixty of the most elite athletes on the planet into a circle – men who had been playing football for several decades – he would then hold a football in the air and declare “Gentlemen. This is a football.” Lombardi was making a point – great teams are built on fundamentals.

I need to be reminded of that as it pertains to my growth and the growth of those I lead. It’s easy for me to focus on more “advanced” competencies of pastoral ministry (like studying culture) to the neglect of the fundamentals (like studying the Bible).  Now, I think both are important and that we should pursue both, but the danger is that we could become varsity level students of culture while only junior varsity students of the Bible.

Focus on the fundamentals

Focusing on the fundamentals could be applied in a number of ways (evangelism, prayer, counseling) but I want to talk studying the Bible (also known as hermeneutics). I’ve found that many of us receive training, assume we’ve mastered the skill and then move on. The problem is that teaching & applying the Bible is one of a pastor’s most significant responsibilities (if not his most significant responsibility), which dictates that expertise, not competence, must be our hermeneutical goal. In 1 Timothy 4 Paul exhorts Pastor Timothy in the following way:

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have…. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Best Practices

Are you “immersed” in the scriptures? Would those around you say you are progressing in teaching & preaching? Paul tells us that by doing so we will save both ourselves and those we lead. So if you’re like me and desire to become more immersed in God’s word here are three best practices you could begin this holiday season:

  • Memorize – It’s amazing how memorizing portions of scripture help us grasp them better. It also equips us for counseling situations and helps us interpret one part of scripture in light of another.
  • Study – There are some great hermeneutics books at the introduction, intermediate & advanced level. In that order here are three recommendations for further study: Living By The Book (Hendricks), Grasping God’s Word (Duvall, Hays), The Drama of Scripture (Bartholomew, Goheen).
  • Teach  – Teaching a topic is one of the most effective ways to develop deeper understanding. Why not develop an introduction to Biblical interpretation that you can teach your family or your small group? Doing so will help you and those around you grow.

Professional athletes spend thousands of hours perfecting the fundamentals to help their teams win, with so much more on the line let that be said of our commitment to interpreting and teaching God’s Word.

Josh Miller (@joshmiller0604) serves as Director of Assessment for Summit Network and as a Church Planting Pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC.