If you're a pastor, counselor, elder, missionary, or ministry leader, your job description will always require the exegesis, or interpretation, of Scripture. Understanding and explaining the Word of God to your people is critically important to your calling.
But in all my years of preaching and teaching, I've discovered a troubling trend - ministry leaders often forget to exegete their people. Let me explain what I mean.
In ministry, your work needs be shaped and motivated by the Two Great Commands of Christ: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39)
If you love God in ministry, you will commit yourself to being a student and accurate interpreter of His Word, and if you love the people to whom you're ministering, you will commit yourself to being a student and interpreter of their lifestyle and habits.
It’s this second field of study that ministry leaders often neglect. We love to participate in the academic and intellectual study of dissecting words and doctrines, but we're much less excited about participating in the messy relationships of everyday life.
Nine Questions To Help You Exegete People
Here are nine helpful questions to ask yourself as you attempt to be a student and exegete of your people:
- What are the cultural idols that are particularly attractive to my people?
- Where do they tend to buy into an unbiblical worldview with its accompanying hopes and dreams?
- Are there themes of spiritual struggle that I need to speak to?
- Where do they tend to get discouraged and need the hope of the gospel?
- What is the level of their biblical literacy and theological knowledge?
- How many of them are actively involved in service, and how many are “ecclesiastical consumers”?
- What do they tend to struggle with in the workplace?
- What do they wrestle with at home?
- What are they reading, watching, and listening to, and how are they influenced by it?
These questions - or others will similar heart-focus and lifestyle recognition - will help you in your preaching, teaching, and counseling as you connect the transforming message of the gospel to the real experiences of the people God has entrusted to your care.
Finally, I need to warn you and encourage you at the same time: exegesis of people will be frustrating. Interpreting a book in the confines of your library is so much easier than bumping shoulders with selfish, stubborn, and idolatrous sinners. But God has raised you up to serve those around you, and, he's promised to provide you with all the grace you need to do so with patience and grace.
So, study the Bible with vigor, but don't forget to study your people with the same intensity. The theology in the word of God is never meant to be merely informational, but transformational to those who hear.