How I Chose My New Bible (2 of 2)

I told you a little about by new Bible purchase over HERE.  After reading that you are probably wondering why I chose the English Standard Version as my primary study and preaching translation.  That’s easy… because  John Piper uses it.  Duh!  Okay, I’m kidding… that probably falls under the category of what my wife calls a ‘seminary joke.’

To answer this question I need to offer some definitions.  One of the most important terms in this discussion is ‘inerrancy.’  I believe very strongly in the inerrancy of the Bible which means that I believe the Bible has no errors.  There is an important detail when defining inerrancy that many do not know.  The definition of inerrancy for conservative evangelicals was solidified by the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy.  They defined the term by stating that the original manuscripts are without error.  Among other things, this means that all of our different English translations and paraphrases do not fall under this umbrella.

This means that choosing a translation can be very important depending on the intended use for that translation.  I believe that I own a copy of every single mainstream translation.  Aside from the hard copies on my shelves, I use Logos Bible Software and have thousands of volumes filed away on my hard drive.  I use many of them and have experienced the Holy Spirit using most all of them in my own life.

I remember during my seminary days needing to read the Old Testament from start to finish during one semester.  Then during the next semester we were assigned the New Testament from start to finish.  I used Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase called The Message and was blessed by it.  It was a blessing to take in the big picture narratives through Peterson’s great gift for writing.

If we wanted to make some very broad and basic generalizations, we could divide all of these editions into two categories, paraphrases and translations.  When I use the term ‘paraphrase’ I am referring to an individual (or group of individuals) who have taken the original languages of the scripture and correlated an idea in Greek with an idea in English – or an idea in Hebrew with an idea in English.  A translation, on the other hand, would take each individual word within the original language and associate that with the best individual word in the English language.

I do believe that paraphrases have a significant purpose.  However, when we want to take an in-depth look at the scriptures for personal study or teaching purposes, we should strive to find the best word-for-word representation of the originally inspired words.  This is what we often refer to as a word-for-word translation.

Early in my Master’s program I chose the degree path called Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages.  I really enjoyed Greek and Hebrew and took every class that was available.  After we went through the basics of vocabulary and grammar, we transitioned to translation and exegesis.  When I began, it was before all of these great software tools were readily available.  I remember sitting at the table with my Hebrew or Greek texts, the appropriate Hebrew or Greek lexicon, and multiple english translations/paraphrases all open in front of me.  I would translate a passage from the original language word-for-word and then reference the various english editions.  This process opened a world of understanding to me in regards to the differences between all of these english editions.

I quickly learned that no single English edition was perfect.  Every one of them was translated by one man or a group of men in the very same way that I was translating in those moments.  There were decisions that had to be made regarding how a word or idea in the original language would be equated to our native language of 21st century English.

Those days of working deep into the intricacies of the languages was when I found my affinity for the English Standard Version.  Please understand that I do not consider myself an expert in these matters, but rather just someone with some experience – maybe just enough to be dangerous.  I consistently found that the most consistent translations adhering to the original languages were the New American Standard Version and the English Standard Version.  This is why I encourage one of these two translations for personal study and teaching.  The reason I chose the ESV over the NASB was primarily because the translation committee who completed the ESV did a great job taking the literary genre into consideration as they were accomplishing this word-for-word translation.  The best examples of this can be found through reading the two translations side-by-side in Old Testaments books such as the poetry of Psalms.

My goal here was to share my journey in the most simple terms that I possibly could.  Remember, none of our English translations are perfect.  They were all translated by men who have inherited a sin nature through Adam as described in Romans 5:12.  Yet that does not lessen the importance that we must place on carefully handling the word of God as THE truth and means of God wrought transformation in our lives today.

Now you know how and why I chose my new Bible.

Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.


How I Chose My New Bible (1 of 2)

Purchasing a new Bible is a special thing because I didn’t just buy another Bible but rather I replaced my primary study and preaching Bible.  Sure I have shelves full of various Bible translations and paraphrases, study Bibles, application Bibles and the like.  But this guy is the captain of the team, the one I depend on to get me through the crucible moments of my pastoral calling.  I had used the previous one for around 8 years.  Forcing it into retirement has been a difficult process.  However, it was just time and there wasn’t any getting around it.  After carrying it with me to various meetings everyday for 8 years, studying and preaching with it, it was time.  The pages are brown from my oily fingers (gross, I know), the maps had fallen out, and the pages were so marked up it was becoming distracting.  Oh, and I was missing some pieces that had just crumbled over time.

I had some very specific things in mind as I was looking to replace my seasoned – but retiring – veteran.  I needed a thinline version because I do take it with me everywhere.  I do have electronic versions on my iPhone and iPad but the Bible is one area where I am a little old school.  My primary preaching notes are written into the margins of my Bible which I can’t do in an electronic version.

Although a great resource, I was not going to carry around one of those huge study Bibles to every meeting, every day.  Also, I love the red-letter editions.  I find it incredibly helpful to quickly know if it is Jesus that is speaking.  This keeps me from needing to stop and analyze the discourse to find out if it is Jesus or not.

Next, I wanted real leather without any crazy designs on it.  My retired edition was genuine leather and it weathered all of my abuse extremely well.  I want to drain all of the life out of each edition that I buy because I invest a lot of time into the notes that are written into each one.  For years I will reference various scriptures and I will find the margin notes that came out of another time of study (this is also why I mourn the retirement of an old copy).  The genuine leather editions are always a little more pricey, but they are definitely worth it over the years of use.

The most significant and truly foundational aspect of the choice was the translation.  How did I choose the translation?  Very good question, I’ll be answering that in the next post.

… to be continued…

Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.

Doing Mission in Suburbia, Katy Tx

“Those who can’t do, teach.”  I’m sure you have heard that saying some place before.  The saying alludes to this idea that people who are not able to succeed in a given field can revert to teaching in that field.  Well, I have not hidden the fact that I am the pastor of a church called The Crossings.  We are a church in the middle of stereotypical suburbia.  Every word I speak in the pulpit or over coffee is placed within the suburban context.  God has called me – and so many others, I believe – to be a missionary in this suburban sprawl called Katy, Tx.

There has been one very small thing that we have done which has produced more encouraging moments than anything else over our five years of residence in this neighborhood.  It really is ridiculously stupid to admit this is a “new” engagement for us.  But, we fall into the same traps that everyone else does here in suburbia – we get too busy.  It really is true that we find ourselves too busy managing church to talk to our neighbors about Jesus.  How asinine is that?  I’m ashamed to admit it… but I’m committed to being honest with my journey.

Here it is… we have started spending time outside.  Yup, it is that simple.  We realized after living in our current home for five years that we really did not truly know a single neighbor.  Sure, we waved and recognized some faces on the way to the mailbox.  But, the fact remains, we were not in the habit of having life-on-life conversations with the community in which God had placed us.  So what did we do?

As a family we began to sit outside and let the kids play.  We sit on the front porch and play with our children and our puppy.  At times we allow the kids to eat their evening meal outside and then spend a few minutes playing.  We look for every opportunity to just be there – visible.  I don’t have any mind-blowing stories of how we have seen Jesus heal demonized home owners.  What has happened is we have begun to see the same people repeatedly while meeting others for the first time.  The conversations between us and our neighbors has multiplied exponentially.  It has been amazing how God has connected the dots.  We will talk to one neighbor who mentions seeing us out with the kids or throwing the retriever dummy for the dog – it seems to break walls and create some comfort.  We have had some pretty deep conversations with some and just a hello to others… but it is PROGRESS!

We are praying that God continues to use these interactions as an opportunity to live as Jesus – incarnate within a community, through relationships.  What would it look like for you to spend more time outside?  If you have kids, sit in the driveway and let them play… If you have a dog, play with it or begin training it… How about a flowerbed?  Do you have a flowerbed?  Start working in your yard and looking for opportunities to engage life with those who live around you. Just take that simple little step and GO OUTSIDE!

Statistics Regarding Pastoral Ministry

I often find that pastoral ministry is really an indescribable experience.  I am able to feel some of the greatest joys that anyone could every feel.  I get to see amazing things happen inside of homes that are nothing short of miraculous.  I get to see Jesus make himself known inside the hearts of people on a regular basis.  I see people being dramatically transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ weekly.  I feel so incredibly blessed that God chose to make himself known through my weakness.

I have also had some difficult times in my ministry career.  Honestly, I have seen more of those times after I began pastoring The Crossings some years ago.  Somewhere within the collision of Lead Pastor and Church Planter there emerged a new set of obstacles.

In a very awkward way, reading statistics like this are comforting.  Before you question my sanity let me tell you a little more… they are not comforting in what they directly communicate but rather what they cause me to remember. When I see things like this –

Hours and Pay

  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

Training and Preparedness

  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
    thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

Health and Well-Being

  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Marriage and Family

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

Church Relationships

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

(more HERE)

… I am reminded that we as pastors are fighting a spiritual battle that is so very real.  I was called specifically by God to give my life proclaiming his message and discipling his people.  I was called to give every bit of me to every bit of him.  God not only called me but he appointed me to a position to walk in that calling.  If ANYTHING receives the attention of Satan (the deceiver and accuser) then such a calling as I have described would be one of those things.

Reading statistics like this are encouraging only because they remind me that my calling places me on a battle field surrounded by the enemy.  Although I know that my sword and shield will triumph that does not mean I will avoid a bloody fight.  Understanding the nature and reality of the fight are foundational to mustering the endurance to suit-up every day.  I pray that by God’s grace he will protect me and my family from becoming one of these statistics… and I pray that he will deliver those who have already found themselves deeply embedded within these numbers.