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West Coast Chinese Christian Conference 2017 Bible Study Training

The West Coast Chinese Christian Conference is held annually at the end of the year.

One aspect of the Conference is the small group Bible study that takes place in the mornings. Below are some of the training videos that were prepared to help the group leaders.

The first one below is in Cantonese.

This one below is in English.

In the Conference, the following portions of the Bible were studied in the small groups: Matthew 16:13-28, Luke 14:25-35, and 1 Peter 2:11-25.



Interpretive challenge: Acts 18:5


Can you see which word/phrase is slightly different in these three translations?

NASB “devote himself completely”

NIV “devoted himself exclusively”

NLT “spent all his time”

The Greek word behind the various translations is synecho.

As you can see the above three translations that run the gamut of approaches to translation engage in some interpretation of how the Greek word is being used here.

Below are two older lesser known English translations that are committed to a more “literalistic” rendering of the text.


Translation is not an easy job!

Why did NASB/NIV/NLT opt to use a quantitative phrase to explain what appears to be qualitative word?


Take a look at Acts 18:1-4.

We find that Paul is engaged in tent making to support his ministry efforts and that he went to the synagogue weekly to preach. Then in verse 5, Silas and Timothy show up and now Paul preaches frequently. The thinking is that Silas and Timothy may have brought financial gifts for the ministry from Macedonia reducing the need to do tentmaking.

We get a hint of the supportiveness of Paul’s mission work from the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:15-16) that was planted back in Acts 16.

Do you buy it?

What application would you draw if this interpretation is valid?

Perhaps, it could encourage us to be more willing to support missions work financially? Another possible application is that ministry work is helped by having a strong support team. If Paul benefited from having Silas and Timothy around, we can ask if we are willing to be a Silas or Timothy to someone else?


Interpretive challenge: Luke 14:26

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (NASB)

At some point in many small group Bible study leaders life, they will run into this verse. Or maybe someone in your group will ask you about it when they read it in their personal reading of the Bible.

How do you respond?

Recall the key to interpretation is context. In this case there are two types of context that helps guides our thinking: (1) the literary context and (2) the textual context.

By literary context, we mean that Jesus as a master teacher employs various methods of teaching. He gave pithy sayings, used similes/metaphors/analogies, engaged in question-answer, shared parables, spoke in hyperbole, etc.

In this case, Jesus utilized hyperbole to make a point.

And what was the point?

Looking at the textual context in and around this “hard saying,” we find out Jesus is talking about the cost of discipleship.

If the context of his teaching was honoring your father and mother, this statement in Luke 14:26 would be contradictory. One would suspect Jesus would explicate honor your parents in a completely different way using different words and teaching devices.

However, in the context of teaching about the cost of discipleship and taking into account the literary device of hyperbole, we catch Jesus meaning: God first – “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (NASB) Luke 14:27

Larry Shapiro and John Lennox in conversation “Is there truth beyond science?”

What do you think?

An interesting discussion between atheist philosophy professor Larry Shapiro and Christian mathematician John Lennox at a Veritas Forum event at University of Wisconsin.

More on preaching

Who in the church leadership and how does the decision get made about how much emphasis (in terms of tangible percentage of minutes) to place of the ministry of the word in communal Sunday gatherings?

Perhaps, some of those decisions are decided within the denomination?

Within some denominations there could be strong traditions about the role of preaching. Or perhaps, in the history of a particular congregation, there are certain expectations regarding preaching.

How does one select the content for a Sunday message?

Some teaching pastors like to plan ahead and will opt for a short/medium/long term commitment to preach through a particular book in the Bible. A series through the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians would pencil in many months of the preaching schedule.

What are the “pros” and “cons” of this approach?

In some churches, the pastor will preach topical series. For example, eight weeks on family life or six weeks on the meaning of prayer or four weeks on how to serve in church.

Some of the more liturgical churches will follow the lectionary.  The Revised Common Lectionary has a cycle of selected readings from both OT and NT set over a three-year period. Supporters of this approach say that this allows the congregation to be exposed to a good percentage of the Scriptures over time. Additionally, this approach avoids the “problem” of the pastor selecting from a narrow set of favorite passages to preach from.

In some cases, the pastor prays for a message and preaches to the need of the moment. Thus, it could be a text exposition or a topic exploration for the Sunday sermon. As such the text or topic will be different and unrelated from week to week.

What are the “pros” and “cons” about that approach?

In one sense Paul and the apostles wrote their letters to deal with a problem (a real need) in the churches they wrote to. They were guided by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to write.

On the other hand, the “preach to the need” approach could result in a narrower preaching repertoire because of the strengths, interests, and experience of the pastor. A marriage and family type of pastor may lean toward sermons emphasizing relationships and less on doctrinal message. A pastor with a stronger Greek/Hebrew language orientation may gravitate to topics and passages where the peculiarities of those languages are highlighted. Or if the pastoral team all graduated from a particular seminary, they may tend to preach on subjects that seminary tends to emphasize. Thus, whatever background a pastor has, will the preaching wind up leaning toward their interests, training, and personality to the neglect of other matters. How does one resist that understandable inclination?

All of this to say, if you are a preaching pastor and you happen on this blog post, how do you approach your preaching? What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the approach you take?

May God bless the feet and words of those who tend the sheep and feed the lambs of God’s churches across the world!


How does your pastor(s) approach preaching?

How many minutes of the Sunday gathering is committed to the proclamation and exposition of the Bible?

How often is the preaching “topical” drawing upon multiple Bible passages to support the various points of the sermon?

How often is the preaching “exposition” of a specific Bible passage?

One pastor I spoke with viewed preaching as “contextual and thus pneumatological.”

What I think he meant is that preachers have to be sensitive to the community they serve and thus must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make those “practical” decisions about what preaching looks like for their specific flock.

What principles guide you or your pastoral team in regards to the ministry of the Word?

Prof. Ben Witherington and The Historical Jesus

In a wide ranging talk, Prof. Ben Witherington discusses the portrait of Jesus that the Bible paints. He does so with an eye toward our Christian faith but also in light of the methods of historical inquiry. Thus, he spends part of the time dismantling the confusion about Jesus caused by the best selling novel The DaVinci Code.