Christian Living

  • Three Kinds of Exegesis

    Why is it that churches with impeccable and tidy doctrine don’t have more influence?

    Dissertations or even volumes of ink could be spilled trying to answer this question. I would like to submit a very simple rubric for why Reformed churches are often ineffective at influencing their immediate context.

    Formally we understand the word “exegesis” to mean the interpretation of a text, particularly Scripture. For the purpose of this short piece, I am expanding the range of meaning of the word to apply to not just the interpretation of a text but also to a broader comprehension of both people and culture.I submit to you, that there is not one kind of exegesis but three kinds of exegesis: Biblical exegesis, Personal exegesis, and Cultural Exegesis. Most churches do one of the three pretty well and perhaps a second one to a serviceable level. Extremely few hit the sweet spot of all three.


    Biblical exegesis is the task of accurately interpreting a text in it’s original context and making the proper adjustments to understand how the meaning to the original context (“there and then”) properly translates to our present context (“here and now”). This involves understanding the writer, the original audience, time and place in redemptive history, purpose, overarching themes, and connectivity to the larger narrative of Scripture. Heady, analytical, or truth-oriented people are drawn to churches whose primary mode of exegesis is Biblical.

    Cultural exegesis is the task of accurately translating and adapting the Gospel to a particular culture without sacrificing the essence and details of the Gospel itself. Cultural exegesis entails a comprehension of how to communicate the narrative of Scripture making appropriate adjustments taking into account the complex web of cultural beliefs (notions, worldviews…), cultural artifacts (bald eagles, cowboys, iPhones, Coca-Cola…), language (technical terms, idioms, accents, dialects, pronunciation…), special forces (therapeutic, consumerism, individualism, pluralism, secularism, technology, democritization of knowledge, globalization…), cultural institutions (political, economic, social, educational, spiritual, media, military…), cultural liturgies/rituals (4th of July, sports, Grammy’s…), and cultural elites (celebrity, media, political, athletic, cultural curators…). Cultural influencers, curators, innovators, movers and shakers, and cultural compromisers are drawn to to churches whose primary mode of exegesis is cultural.

    Personal exegesis is the task of accurately applying the narrative of Scripture to the whole individual. This kind of exegesis is somewhere in the vein of counseling and discipleship. Someone skilled in personal exegesis has a high degree of self-knowledge and is effective at helping people work through their idols, circumstances, past, and wounds from the lens of larger narrative of Scripture. Contemplative, affective, and therapeutically-inclined people are drawn to churches whose primary mode of exegesis is personal.

    Most of you probably are thinking “_______ kind of exegesis is the most important.” Well, guess what, that is your primary. Each mode of exegesis has it’s various strengths and weaknesses. If you want an excellent assessment of those strengths and weaknesses, I commend to you Collin Hansen’s excellent concise book, Blind Spots.

    Biblical Exegesis + Cultural Exegesis – Personal Exegesis = Hard-Charging Missional Church

    Biblical Exegesis + Personal Exegesis – Cultural Exegesis = Most Healthy Reformed Churches

    Cultural Exegesis + Personal Exegesis – Biblical Exegesis = Liberal Protestantism

    We all want to think we are omni-competent but we have our biases, wounds, blind spots, and immaturity. We need the benefit of having others around us to help us grow, to help us understand, to help us listen, and to help us change.

  • Mike Miller, Lebron James, the Apostle Paul, and Contextualization

    Mike Miller and Lebron James

    If you know me at all, I am a geek for longform articles and blog posts. I love reading them and I love writing them. Some people think they are ineffective because people in our culture have patience for only 250-500 words, and those people are probably correct. I still like them and it’s why I read ESPN’s blog Grantland so frequently. I read a piece today on NBA player Mike Miller and it was so good that it warranted me reflecting on some of the content.

    The piece was entitled Everybody Loves Mike Miller and in many ways Mike Miller’s approach to basketball should be a metaphor for the church for how we interact with culture. Here are some salient quotes:

    “He’s a chameleon — meaning he can fit in any different room,” said LeBron James’s longtime friend and business manager Maverick Carter, whose relationship with Miller began shortly after Miller and McGrady attended one of James’s high school games. “I’ve seen him with high-level businesspeople and owners, kids, people from all different backgrounds. A guy from South Dakota, he’s not from one of the coasts, he’s right in the middle of the country and I think he really can adapt to any room.

    “Plus he’s a cool guy.”   …

    “What I do is, I understand people,” Miller explained. “I understand what they’re going through. For some reason, I’m always in a good mood. It’s a blessing for me. I understand it’s a team sport and if there’s going to be individuals inside it, how do I relate to every one of those players differently? The way I do stuff with LeBron during a game is completely different than what I’m going to do with Kyrie [Irving]. Some people need to talk. Some people need to laugh. I’m always in that good mood because at the end of the day, I’m [playing basketball] for a living.”

    “What I really am is a friend first,” Miller said. “I like to be cool with people. Like Kyrie — that’s my guy. He’s a great kid, unbelievable point guard. I think I can help him be better. Not a better basketball player. Just understanding things. Dion Waiters, great kid. Sometimes he gets a bad rep. If he fits into his role here, he’s going to be really, really good. I think I can help with that. Kevin Love’s a monster. And LeBron, I’m always going to be on him with positive stuff.”

    You should read the article yourself, but because I know you won’t I will have to summarize it here for you. Mike Miller was a slashing small forward in his youth who had to reinvent his game in order to have NBA longevity, so he made a career out of doing two things – 1. 3-point shooting  2. Providing leadership in the locker room.

    A couple of principles stuck out to me from Mike’s story that we would be wise to take note of:

    Flexibility and Teachability – Mike learned early on that he needed the wisdom of NBA veterans (Ewing, Outlaw, Grant, Armstrong… ) if he was going to have long term success.

    Specified Excellence – Mike had the humility and willingness to put in the hard work to hone his craft behind the arc.

    Listening Skills – Mike learned to be humble and to listen to other people. One might argue that Mike’s ability to listen is what makes him such a close friend to so many disparate groups of people (“high-level businesspeople and owners, kids, people from all different backgrounds“). Mike’s listening skills earned for him the friendship, trust, and influence over the most revered players in the game.

    Leadership – Mike learned that the value that he had in the game of basketball was far more than just what happened on the court. He learned that his value as locker room counselor was just as valuable as his role behind the arc.

    Make others succeed – Mike made others around him succeed and took his joy from watching them succeed, even when it was to his own detriment.

    Reading the article I couldn’t help but think about Paul’s defense of his apostleship in I Corinthians 9, specifically verses 19-27:

    19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God butunder the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

    24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

    Mike, a white kid from North Dakota, was able to navigate through the social complexities of his NBA career because he learned to be humble, he learned to listen, he learned to provide timely counsel, he learned to make others successful, and he learned to be flexible. God taught the Apostle Paul this same skill set through his 14 years of discipleship at the church in Syrian Antioch and through the crucible of church planting the Mediterranean rim. Paul was a rough and violent man who needed to be humbled, bridled, and reformed.


    How amazing would  it be if the people around us felt heard?

    How amazing would it be if the people around us felt that we made sacrifices to make them flourish?

    How amazing would it be if the people around us felt safe because of our humility and teachability?


    The church could use a few more leaders like Mike Miller.


    Post-script – I actually met Mike Miller once while he was eating breakfast at Gator Dining with UF teammate and future NBA role player, Matt Bonner. It was a pedestrian encounter but Mike was engaging and kind and Matt Bonner was his typical shy, understated, and socially awkward self.



    December 4, 2014 • Christian Living, Contextualization, Culture, Sports • Views: 1218

  • Reformation Day – Be a Nobody!

    Martin Luther, 95 Theses, Wittenberg Door

    According to Phillipp Melanchthon’s account, Martin Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October, 31st 1517. There is a lot of misinformation regarding this event in church history. We don’t know for certain that Martin nailed the 95 Theses but we do know that he mailed the 95 Theses to a regional archbishop.

    The 95 Theses were written in Latin and meant to spur a kind of internal academic dialogue particularly as it regarded whether there was Biblical support for the selling of indulgences and other moral abuses he saw with the Roman Catholic Church. Regardless of who nailed the theses, someone quickly translated the document into German, revved up the printing press, and distributed them widely. Historians often look to this event as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. This is why October 31st is not just All Hallows Eve (Halloween) but is also known as Reformation Day and this is also why we celebrate Reformation Sunday around this time each year.

    I know it’s kind of weird, but in the story above the thing that fascinates me most is the unknown person(s) that translated and distributed the 95 Theses. History is full of these anonymous nobodies who had just as much (in some instances more) impact than the guys who get Wikipedia pages.

    I think of the nobody Intel computer software engineer I sat next to on a transatlantic flight that started I think of the nobody Bedouin goat herder who found the Dead Sea Scrolls in some caves. I think of the two missionaries that John Calvin’s church sent to South America! I think of the nobody(ies) that disciple Paul in Syrian Antioch for the 14 years in between his conversion and his first missionary journey. I think of the nobody at CRU who came up with the idea of the Jesus Film (the most watched and translated movie in human history).

    In the grand scheme of things history has been radically changed by a bunch of us nobodies. These things should give each of us hope that we can make Jesus famous from being faithful, intentional, and strategic as we go about mundane life.

    (Originally appeared in Orlando Grace Church E-News)


    October 29, 2014 • Christian Living, History, Reformed Theology • Views: 1060

  • Best Links of the Week

    The World as 100 People

    The World if There Were Only 100 People

    Fight Club sequel plot revealed

    Great article by J. Budziszewski entitled, “Why Hooking Up is Letting You Down


    Article from the Polaris Project on “Human Trafficking Trends in the United States

    Great long-form piece from Sports Illustrated entitled, “The Book of Tebow

    Solid article from Kevin DeYoung entitled, “Seven Thoughts on Pastors Writing Books

  • Pandora’s Inbox

    Pandora's Inbox

    If you are at all like me, the first thing you do in the morning is turn off the alarm on your phone… and then check your email (or maybe Facebook if you are a millennial).   I think this unconscious routine began whenever I owned my first smartphone.

    Unconscious Routines

    I’ve come to realize the moment I check that iDevice that I have mentally begun my work day.   I have opened Pandora’s Inbox.  The inertia of the click of that little icon does not stop for the rest of the work day.  I become mentally and spiritually rutted in thinking about the latest plate that needs spun, fire that needs put out, or wires that need uncrossed.  It was not healthy.

    I recently consciously stopped this habit and have committed to disconnecting from the Matrix until I have spent time in prayer and God’s Word.  I am not doing these things as a form of legalism (and technology is not evil), rather I am recognizing it is what my soul needs to be a healthy human  and not some zombie or Borg-like being.

    Renewal of Heart and Mind

    I am desperately in need of the mind of Christ and the renewal that takes place when I quiet my soul before God.  My joy in Christ depends on the renewal of my heart and mind, particularly in the casting of my burdens and anxieties on Jesus.

    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Phil. 4:4-8

    But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matt. 6:33-34

    Praise God that His mercies are new each morning and that God has special tailored grace for each day.

    Maybe you do your devotions in the evening or at some other point in your day.  I do not think that you need to do the same thing that I am doing.  However, from one beggar to another – this has helped me find my daily bread.

    As good as I think I am at compartmentalizing, once I open Pandora’s Inbox I have fallen down the rabbit hole of my work day.   Whether you are Crazy Busy, compulsively checking your inbox/social media, or just trying to stay ahead of the pile – let us continue to avail ourselves of God’s grace.  Otherwise we will find ourselves breathing by wires…

    October 23, 2013 • Christian Living, Culture, Technology • Views: 395