In the next few weeks I want to “blog” my way through a useful book I am reading entitled, “God’s Big Picture.” After serving in vocational ministry since starting my undergraduate studies in 1979, I have had the joy of teaching through the Bible. Interim ministry, sometimes light-heartedly described by myself as “hit and run ministry” often means I am in a different church each Sunday. On some occasions God has directed me to serve for a longer period of time, e.g. I am concluding 3 months of ministry at Cannington.
I want to use this text and make some observations and applications of the lack of the “big picture” for many believers. Their devotions, their bible study habits, the preaching they often hear is “grass-hopper” style. I find grasshoppers interesting but very challenging to catch. They flit from location to location in a haphazard style, and are easily prompted to “move on.”
So let’s begin….
Preface (The quotes from the book will be in bold italics)
“I had been a committed Christian for six years, but my knowledge of the Bible, especially the Old Testament was very limited….”
I have found this true of many Christians who have not only known Christ for six years but sixteen years, even sixty years. Years ago when I was seeking to teach Romans to a group of Cuban leaders, I discovered through an impromptu survey that less than ten per cent had read through the Old Testament. My ‘correction’ of this void in their understanding led me to assign the investigation (in context) of every OT reference Paul used in the writing of this magna carta of the Christian faith. How can you possibly understand justification by faith if you do not study Abraham’s experience of “believing God” and God “crediting it to him as righteousness.”
“In the next ten minutes I was taken on a whistle-stop tour of the whole Bible….”
Try this! Try explaining to a child, youth, adult or group the story-line of the bible in ten minutes. Go light on the details….How can you possibly cover 66 books, 1500+ years, etc in ten minutes? As Pastor Burchett stated at our opening teacher training time when we launched Through-the-Bible studies at a church in Toronto, “I can teach the entire content of the Bible in two words – JESUS CHRIST.”
“I had already completed a theology degree….but it left me unable to find my way around the Bible.”
This is true sadly in many solid Bible Colleges. I recall hearing of a school that required for senior students an oral exam that covered the entire scope of the Bible in two hours. Hmmm….maybe I should suggest that at Toronto Baptist Seminary. We have opted to combine the survey of the OT & NT with the biblical theology of the same. For many students who come with a scattering of Biblical knowledge before they launch their studies, this proves heavy. In the past there were 3 survey courses, something that gave an overview of the story line, basic book structure and general themes of the entire Bible.
How about churches? What is the plan to cover the scope of the Bible? Curriculum planners have their favourite passages and in this “electives-are-everything” culture, would students choose such a course?
Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel and Kingdom served as the catalyst for God’s Big Picture. The goal of the text we are reviewing is to provide a less “technical” resource for God’s people. The author cites his indebtedness to a variety of writers and speakers including F.F. Bruce, Edmund P. Clowney, Philip Jensen, Walter J. Kaiser. I too am indebted to those who have sought to teach me God’s word.
O God, may this journey through your Word strengthen your children and draw others to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. By your Holy Spirit, who inspired the original authors, grant us understanding and faith to accept your word and to be transformed by it. Through Jesus Christ, the living Word, Amen.