Learning the Languages

When I felt the call to the ministry in 1995, I was a member of a rural, country Baptist Church. I had felt this moving of God in my life to preach. I talked with my pastor on a Saturday about it, and the next Sunday (8 days later) I preached my first sermon. That was way too short of a time. I was thrust out there as a “preacher” now. It was just 14 months later I was called to pastor a bi-vocational rural church. I was 24 years old, no theology, no leadership skills, no pastoral skills, no mentor, no nothing. I was a preacher and that’s it, and a bad sermon preacher at that. I wanted to go to seminary but the counsel I got was “the Holy Spirit is your teacher” and, well, that is true. I agree the Spirit of God is our teacher because we cannot understand the things of God without Him being our teacher, however, He has gifted us with the means of learning.

Is it vital for a pastor to be able to translate Greek in order to be a pastor? No, but does it hurt? We are English speaking people, why do we need to know Greek? Or better yet, why does a pastor or teacher need to know Greek? That answer is two fold. First, its not absolutely necessary to know Greek to teach a Bible class or even pastor. I did so for 11 years. But what is wrong with having a working knowledge of Greek since the Bible was originally written in Kiona Greek and that’s where we get our English translations from. Second, having a working knowledge of Greek opens us the Bible is ways you never thought it would. The goal is not for you to be able to be a Greek translation expert but to know why we see English words the way we do. To understand the meaning of the word to express it in English and why we do that. That is the purpose.

Knowing Greek is not so that you can stand in the pulpit and say for the entire sermon “in the Greek this means”, although there are times when that is helpful. For many bi-vocational pastors the Masters Degree from seminaries are difficult. Many have full time jobs, families and the 16 hours a semester to finalize a degree is impossible. Therefore, I suggest the online world that affords many pastors an opportunity to get a degree. You can learn Greek online, Hebrew online and many other degrees. It may not be your calling to pastor a full time church because rural, country churches need pastors. That, however, is not an excuse to now learn the languages.

Learn them not so that your congregation can be impressed but learn them so that you can read the Greek, work at translating and learning the meanings and see the glory of God in that. Don’t use the excuse of “I’m just a rural pastor” not to learn. Just do it.

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