A large crowd had gathered on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. For many hours, they had listened attentively to the words of Jesus. Now, as the sun began to set, the disciples urged Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they could go into the surrounding villages and buy some food. The response of Jesus startled them. “ ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat’ ” (Matt. 14:16, NKJV).
We face that challenge on a weekly basis. Our hearers are spiritually hungry, perhaps even malnourished. Our assignment is clear: give them something to eat. We realize that our resources are meager. Our only hope consists in pointing our hearers to Jesus who is the Bread of Life. We can point them to the Word of God that testifies about the Living Bread that came down from heaven (see John 6:51).
I invite you to take an inventory of your preaching and teaching ministry. How would your hearers describe the focus of your public presentations and personal interactions? Are you giving them more substantial nourishment than the junk food of this present age? Are you encouraging them to search the Scriptures that they might know Him who is life eternal?
In a previous editorial, I shared about the Scottish cleric Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who lived and served in the early part of the nineteenth century.1 Though his public ministry lasted only a few years before his untimely death, M’Cheyne left a lasting legacy. He encouraged his parishioners to read through the Bible each year and share what they were learning in family worship and in interactions with neighbors and friends. Whenever families journey prayerfully through the Word of God together, lives are blessed. Marriages are blessed. Families are blessed. Communities are blessed.
I am excited about a new Bible reading initiative introduced in this issue of Ministry: Revived by His Word. This initiative encourages members of your church family to join together with other believers around the world in a journey through God’s Word—just one chapter per day. Church members can be encouraged to read the chapter, have someone read it in a group setting, or listen to an audio Bible. The goal is to spend quality time with the Word of God, take time to reflect on the Scriptures, and share what has been learned with others.
In one of my favorite devotional books, Steps to Christ, we find this counsel regarding reading the Scriptures:
[T]here is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. Keep your Bible with you. As you have opportunity, read it; fix the texts in your memory. Even while you are walking the streets you may read a passage and meditate upon it, thus fixing it in the mind.2
As we engage in this journey together through the Bible, we will be revived and refreshed. His Word will be a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths (see Ps. 119:105). The entrance of His words will give light; they will provide understanding to the simple (see v. 130).
Many articles in this issue of Ministry emphasize the importance and centrality of the Word of God. Glean insights that will help you as you preach and teach the Word, in and out of season.
As a spiritual leader in your community, I encourage you to lead by example. Make sure that you are saturating your life and ministry with the Word of God. Like the apostles, devote yourself to the ministry of the Word, both personally and in your ministry activities (Acts 6:4). When you visit families in your community, follow the instructions of Jesus and give them something to eat. Speak more about the Scriptures rather than television programs or sports events, and encourage others to join with you on this journey through the Bible. This will result in a bountiful harvest for the kingdom of heaven.
1 Derek J. Morris “Daily Bread,” Ministry 83, no. 5 (May 2011): 5.
2 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1892), 90.