Since last Fall, we (our high school ministry) have been going through the Gospel of Mark on Sundays, and we’ll continue to do so until we get through the whole thing. We’ve taken a couple of breaks for short series, but have stuck to the schedule for the most part. By the end of the summer, we’ll be halfway through, and my goal is to be done with the book by next summer.
It’s been great to go through the entire Gospel of Mark. I like this approach in teaching our students, and here are some big reasons why:
It forces me as a pastor to work through some tough topics personally and publicly. When I only teach topically, I typically stick (sometimes subconsciously, sometimes not) to my “sweet spots.” Teaching exegetically through a book makes me consider and teach on some issues I might not have ever thought of addressing. In the case of working through a Gospel, I am forced to deal with some parts of Jesus’ life and teaching that perhaps I’m a bit uncomfortable with. This past Sunday, we were in Mark 6:1-6 where Jesus is mocked by his hometown and couldn’t do as many mighty works there as other places. Definitely not a quick and clean passage!
It helps me keep the focus on Jesus. This is certainly true since we’re studying an inspired biography of Jesus. But when I’ve gone through a book in the past–whether as an up-front teacher or a small group leader–I really see how all of the Bible (including the “boring” parts of the Old Testament) point to Jesus. When teaching on topics, I can start to focus on the accoutrements of the Christian faith, rather than the central thing–Jesus. It doesn’t have to be this way when I teach on topics. It’s just something I’ve noticed about myself.
It teaches students to see Scripture as a narrative, rather than a book of isolated verses and advice. When I teach only on topics, I can give the impression that the best way to read the Bible is to interpret it two or three verses at a time. Sometimes, it’s important to really focus on just a couple of important verses, but when we start to do that often to support our view on a particular topic, we just end up getting into proof-texting, and that’s terrible exegesis.
I’m not suggesting that we need to only teach through books of the Bible. Certainly there is a time or a place for addressing a particular topic and seeing what the Bible has to say about that topic. After all, to do so is simply pastoral theology, which is a good thing. However, I do think there are some great benefits to working through a book over a period of a time. If you’ve never done it, I’d suggest trying it out, perhaps starting with a section of a book (like Matthew 5-7, which is the Sermon on the Mount) or a minor prophet.
QUESTION: What do you think the pros and cons are to teaching through one book of the Bible over a longer period of time?