Chapter 7: Bringing the Bible Back to Life

Freeing Bible Teaching from the Bonds of Culture

Peter Debakar Mazumder

My back was killing me. Trying to sit up in my chair, I struggled to pay attention to the speaker. How much longer is this going to go on? I thought. He has been speaking for two hours, and there is no sign that he is nearing the end.

The speaker had a reputation as a respected preacher and Bible teacher. Based on his credentials, I had booked him to deliver the main message at our student conference. But my experience with him leading up to the conference had been nothing but frustration. I had repeatedly sent him information on the theme we wished him to address, but never received a reply or acknowledgment that he had received my emails.

When he arrived at the conference, his first words to me were, “What do you want me to speak on?” He brushed off my alarmed look. “Don’t worry. I need only a little time to prepare. I will be ready to deliver my message.” And deliver he did—for two and a half hours.

Instead of teaching on the topic that we had asked him to address (or any topic at all), he presented random thoughts, using bits and pieces from various passages in the Bible. We realized that not only had he not prepared in advance, he had not prepared at all. In fact, he was not even aware of the main theme for the conference.

His talk, twice as long as we had requested, disrupted the schedule for the rest of the day. Beyond that, his teaching had no impact. He delivered Bible truths—but in a dry, abstract way. There was no heart connection, nothing compelling in the intellectual concepts he presented. Worst of all, he provided no practical application from the Scriptures. He offered no suggestions for how the truths he shared from the Bible could be applied. Our students walked out of his session with nothing that they could use for their own lives.

WANTED: COMPELLING BIBLE TEACHERS

I WISH I COULD tell you that my experience with this pastor was an aberration. But in my country, Bangladesh, there is a shortage of pastors and leaders who are able to teach the Bible in a compelling way.

The Scriptures are taught—but the presentations are too often mechanical and wooden. Many times, pastors will simply read a Bible passage, then close the Scriptures and talk about any number of unrelated topics. Their commentary often has little to do with the Scripture read; the reading of the Word is done more to satisfy a ceremonial expectation than to provide solid teaching. And this ritual is often taken by the congregation as the way that they should approach Scripture in their personal reading. These mechanical, rote, and even off-base presentations of Scripture …


About the Author

PETER DEBAKAR MAZUMDER serves as national director of Bible Students Fellowship in Bangladesh as well as co-national director of Asian Access Bangladesh. He lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh with his wife Sylvia and their daughters Parmina and Joanna.

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