Not long ago I was sitting down for coffee with a young man named Keith who recently surrendered his life to Jesus through one of our church plants here in Denver. As we sat there, discussing some of the ways God was powerfully at work in his new life as a believer, Keith blurted out, “I just can’t get over the Bible! I mean, everyday God is seriously using this book to transform everything about me. It is crazy!”
It is in moments like these that the Lord once again reminds me that the power of our ministries and our church planting efforts does not lie in our clever ideas, fresh initiatives, or strategic programming, as helpful as those things are. No, at the end of the day the power of our ministries to see lives transformed for the glory of God is the Holy Spirit speaking through, illuminating, and impressing the truths of God’s Word on the hearts of individuals like Keith.
Listen to what the Scriptures say about themselves:
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” John 17:17
What a joy it is to teach and proclaim the very living Word of God, watching the Lord use it to conform the hearts of people to the heart of Jesus! For this reason, it is vital in church planting that our ministries are built on the living, unchanging Word of God. And if this is going to happen, if the Word is to truly shape and take root in the hearts of the people we are seeking to reach with the Gospel, then as pastors and leaders we must continue to grow in both our understanding and practice of what could be called, Bible fluency. What is Bible fluency? Bible fluency pertains to our knowledge of and ability to communicate basic Bible interpretation principles as they apply to the overarching biblical narrative. Let’s look at the two parts of this definition.
First of all, Bible fluency pertains to our knowledge of and ability to communicate basic Bible interpretation principles. What we are talking about here is the discipline of hermeneutics, taken from a Greek word that means “to explain or interpret.” To interpret Scripture rightly we must abide by several critical hermeneutical and interpretive principles, including:
Principle #1: Understand the context of the passage. In order to properly understand a passage we must understand the surrounding context. We need to understand the grammatical context within the chapter, within the book, and within the entire Bible! We should also seek to understand the historical context at the time the Scripture was written.
Principle #2: Understand the specific genre of the passage. Is the passage a parable, poetry, history, wisdom literature? Right interpretation is directly related to how well we understand the genre of the passage we are studying or teaching.
Principle #3: Understand the biblical author’s original intent of the passage. Our understanding and interpretation of a passage must never contradict the author’s original intent. We must remember that a passage can never mean what it never meant, otherwise it is a sure bet we are not interpreting the Bible correctly.
Secondly, our growth in Bible fluency pertains not only to our knowledge of and ability to communicate basic Bible interpretation principles, but also in seeking to apply those principles to the overarching biblical narrative. In his book, Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax, explains this overarching biblical narrative as follows:
Creation: One Hebrew word sums up the picture of Genesis 1 and 2: shalom. Peace. Earth was full of God's shalom, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God's intention. The world was made for human flourishing, there we could live in joy in the presence of our Maker, worshiping God by loving Him and one another forever.
Fall: Adam and Eve rejected God's rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as "the fall," and because the represented all of humanity, their action affects us too. We have-- through our attitudes and actions-- declared ourselves to be God's enemies. This rebellion results in physical and spiritual death.
Redemption: Thankfully the loving Creator who rightly shows Himself to be wrathful toward our sin is determined to turn evil and suffering we have caused into good that will be to His ultimate glory. So the next movement shows God implementing a master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself comes to renew the world and restore His people. The grand narrative of Scripture climaxes with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Restoration: The story doesn't end with redemption. God has promised to renew the whole world, and the Bible gives us a peak into this glorious future. The restoration of all things will take place in two ways. Christ will return to judge sin and evil, and He will usher in righteousness and peace. God will purge this world of evil once and for all.
As we apply different biblical interpretive principles to our understanding and teaching of God’s Word, it is important that they are applied to Scripture in light of the overarching narrative that Wax lays out here. It is only as we do this that we will build churches and disciples of Jesus that are truly Gospel-centered. And it is only through this type of Gospel-centered ministry that we will help people live in the joy of the Lord as they approach all of life through the lens of a truly biblical, Gospel-saturated worldview.
In closing, let’s consider three practical reasons why Bible fluency is so vital to effective, sustainable, God-honoring church planting.
1. Bible fluency is crucial in nurturing the soul of the church planter. It is in understanding the Bible well for ourselves that we are able to continually feed off of the Word for our own spiritual growth and encouragement. Church planting is hard. Bible fluency helps us stay connected to Jesus as we stay connected to the Scriptures and the rich food that is there.
2. Bible fluency is crucial to the church planter’s ability to disciple and counsel others well. You cannot give what you do not have. If we are to shepherd others effectively and with knowledge and wisdom from above, we must be equipped as those who are biblically fluent.
3. Bible fluency is crucial for the church planter’s faithful preaching of the Word, week in and week out. It has been said that if there is a mist in the pulpit there will be a fog in the pew. This certainly pertains to the preacher’s Bible fluency or lack thereof. If we are unable to understand and clearly communicate the truths of Scripture in our preaching ministries, we should not be surprised when over time our congregation in unclear about the truths of Scripture as well.
The Word of God is powerful. As I was blessed to see in the life of my friend Keith, the Word transforms from the inside-out. May our church planting efforts be rooted in this conviction, and may the Lord continue to grow us as leaders who are biblically fluent, rightly understanding and applying God’s Word to the hearts and minds of His people.
 Trevin Wax, Counterfeit Gospels.