Topical vs. Verse-by-Verse

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Topical vs. Verse-by-Verse

Postby Champuru » Thu Sep 22, 2005 9:36 pm

Maybe I'm not here to "convince you" so much as I am here to solicit YOUR opinion about this question.

If you've been attending church for any length of time, or listening to sermons on Christian radio, you know that there are two distinct types of preaching: 1) topical and 2) verse-by-verse.

Topical studies mainly focus on an aspect of life (overcoming addiction, walking by faith, raising godly children, etc.) and find scriptures to back it up. This is a typical preaching style of churches like New Hope. It tends to be popular with the congregation since it relates to a great number of people and they often see an immediate life application in the message.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the verse-by-verse sermons. These are typical of churches like Calvary Chapel. A passage of scripture is selected and you delve into the word in depth, studying the historical backdrop, definitions to words in the original language(s), character profiles, and how it translates to your life today.

I tend to prefer verse-by-verse studies and enjoy the teaching of Calvary Chapel pastors that I listen to on the radio. One of my favorites is Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale whom I listen to on my commute home. He seems to have found a good balance of verse-by-verse, with life application and a dash of humor. (Their website is http://www.calvaryftl.org or you can subscribe to their daily podcasts at http://www.calvaryftl.org/AWMedia/podcast.cfm.) Good stuff. :)

Who's your favorite preacher - and what teaching style do you enjoy?
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Re: Topical vs. Verse-by-Verse

Postby lovetosing » Thu Sep 22, 2005 10:22 pm

Champuru wrote:Topical studies mainly focus on an aspect of life (overcoming addiction, walking by faith, raising godly children, etc.) and find scriptures to back it up.

Who's your favorite preacher - and what teaching style do you enjoy?

Hi Donna,

This may sound a bit odd, but although I prefer topical studies and benefit greatly from it, it often drives me to study verse by verse on my own. Does that make sense? I love my pastors, but occasionally I'll hear something that makes me go, "hmm." It's not that I doubt the scriptures or the teaching, but I want to KNOW for myself that the Word isn't being taken out of context or "cherry-picked" to suit the message the pastor wants to convey. I've been in services or bible studies where the Word is used to back up beliefs or positions, but if the pastor (or bible study leader, etc.) continued to include a few more verses, it change the understanding, sometimes significantly. It's the exception rather than the rule, but still.....

I'm rambling, sorry. :oops: I guess I'm trying to say that while I like the topical messages, I remind myself that I also have a responsiblity (and a desire) to seek for myself.
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Re: Topical vs. Verse-by-Verse

Postby Champuru » Thu Sep 22, 2005 10:36 pm

It's not that I doubt the scriptures or the teaching, but I want to KNOW for myself that the Word isn't being taken out of context or "cherry-picked" to suit the message the pastor wants to convey. I've been in services or bible studies where the Word is used to back up beliefs or positions, but if the pastor (or bible study leader, etc.) continued to include a few more verses, it change the understanding, sometimes significantly. It's the exception rather than the rule, but still.....


That's a great point, lovetosing. Taking scripture out of context and using it to convey your own point of view, that is certainly of great concern. Like you mentioned, though, I'm sure most pastors are praying up and hopefully hearing from God on what to teach on Sunday mornings and not intentionally skewing the original meaning and intent of the message. As long as the message is in line with what the Bible says, I think topical studies are great!

You are very wise to heed the check in your spirit. Always do your own research and read the Bible for yourself. (Isn't that how cults get started? The leader keeps the people from reading the scriptures for themselves and misleads them with his own doctrine?)
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Postby Foxen » Mon Sep 26, 2005 3:15 pm

Hmm, personally I prefer taking a chunk of scripture and going through it verse by verse in context of the historical and cultural happenings during the time when the passage was written. However, sometime I struggle with this because I get caught between trying to interpret the passage in context (I am no scholar so often I have NO idea what was really going on) versus interpreting scripture at face value. Sometimes I'd like to believe that the Bible is so universal in its truths, and so simple to understand, and that the Holy Spirit facilitates in the process of getting to know God, that reading it without knowing anything else would be enough to hear from God. At other times though, I wonder about context, and culture, and whether I'm really understanding what's going on....but ultimately, God transcends, so I hope I hear what God wants me to hear.

As for the topical - heh. I think topical might be great for "new believers" and stuff learning the basics of Christianity, or time to time to really go through scripture to examine a particular topic (McLaren went through the entire new testament highlighting all the verses concerning hell...interesting exercise that I doubt I'll ever do!). However, I've been through too many services where scripture is bascially "cherry picked" just to fit the sermon...as if the sermon was based off the will of the speaker, and the Bible was made to fit the sermon, as opposed to sermons based off scripture.

Rick Warren, in his Purpose Driven Life book, seemed to have taken several scriptures out of context. In a small group I was involved with, we were forced to go through the Rick Warren series....and we watched the videos and followed along in the extra handbook thing...and within the first few weeks, our whole group was kinda unsatisfied with the scripture usage in the series. There was one particular scripture where we needed to pause, check our bibles, the various versions, then the Hebrew (okay, we didn't go that far), and afterwards REALLY wonder if Rick took the passage too far in his usage of it.

At another church, I remember a pastor using a very powerful verse. I read it on the notes and the second half of the passage was SO profound. I then checked my NAS Bible...and realized, well, the second half of the passage wasn't in my translation. I was, err...stunned. I went home, checked NIV, NKJ, Old KJ, even the Greek in a parrallel Bible...and finally, NLT, and Revised, and even the Message. I was stuck...and a bit, well, confused. Later that week I checked with the pastor's son...and a week after that he came back with the Bible his father used to prep the sermon. It was a very OLD version of the NLT...I think before they cleaned up on some of the more liberal paraphrasing. The profound portion of the scripture was in fact, a very man-made segment which didn't belong there...it was not in the Greek, and as a paraphrase, whomever wrote it took the passage just a little too far.

After that incident I became very skeptical about scripture usage in topical sermons. Today, I really wonder if the Bible shapes the sermon, or the sermon shapes the Bible (even with verse-by-verse sermons).

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Postby scrivener » Wed Sep 28, 2005 10:19 pm

I won't stand up for the misuse of scripture, of course, but you know, Jesus used verses out of context all the time. You know when he says, "For it is written..." and follows with a verse? A lot of times, if you look that verse up, it seems to have nothing at all to do with the context in which he is quoting it.

The way it was explained to me is that Jesus was talking to people who were very educated in scripture, and this was a way for him to demonstrate his own understanding of scripture; he wasn't quoting the verse to make his point. He was quoting the verse to establish his credibility as a scholar of the scriptures.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.
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