Interpretive Lenses for Teaching and Preaching

Using The Interpretive Lenses

WEARING THE INTERPRETIVE LENSES FOR TEACHING AND PREACHING

 In studying a biblical text – the following lenses are ways of reading a text fully and well.  They can be used in the order given but will also be swapped out at times as insights arise.  Each section is completed by a meaning and significance statement, which describes how this interpretive lens has affected or changed your first understanding of the passage under study.

FIRST UNDERSTANDING LENS – A simple statement of what this passage appears to mean at your first read-throughs.  Take time to read through the text 30-50 times (yes, 30-50).  What are your questions/assumptions/impressions/reflections early on in your handling of this text?

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

GENRE LENS – What is the genre of this passage?  How will this genre awareness influence the handling of this passage?  What is the meaning and significance of the genre on the work of interpretation?  Use a good introductory work on the OT or NT to clarify the genre issues.

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

CONTEXTUAL LENS – What surrounds this passage?  What precedes and follows and what is the meaning and significance of this context?  This lens saves you from one of the greatest mistakes in handling the text of scripture . . . studying a text without a clear sense of the context.

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

PERSONAL LENS - How does this passage impact my life?  What is the Spirit of God impressing upon me through this text?  What is my response to God as I place my life before this truth?  This is the lens you must keep near as you work through a text . . .

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

CONTEXT OF REALITY LENS - What do we find in this text by way of an honest and real portrayal of reality?  What are the “under-the-sun” features that this text exhibits?  What seasons or situations or below the surface realities are in need of substantial healing?

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

WORD LENS– What are the words or key words (parrots) that must be given careful observation and interpretation?  How do the words themselves impact the meaning and significance of this passage and its truth?

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

STRUCTURAL LENS– For this passage what is the structure of the text?  What is the significance of this structure for interpretation?  Lay the text out in a word document and use the functions to note main and subordinate clauses / key words / linkage of thoughts etc.

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

LITERARY (STORY) LENS – What is the scene in this passage, and what is present in terms of characters, narrative, and plot?  What is to be discerned about the narrator in this passage?

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

 FALLEN CONDITION FOCUS LENS - What is found in this text that portrays the fallen, fragile, finite, or faltering condition of humanity?  To explore these dimensions see the work of Brian Chappell and Zack Eswine on the importance of this lens for teaching and preaching.

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

CULTURAL / HISTORICAL LENS –  Who is the author, original audience, time, setting, and purpose of writing that can be gathered from this scripture?  What are the discontinuities (in customs, practices, laws) between then and now AND what are the continuities (in universal kingdom history) between then and now?

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

SECONDARY SOURCES LENS– What is the take on this passage from three good commentaries?  How do these agree or disagree with your emerging understanding?  How would you defend or how have you changed your understanding?  Work with three to five good commentary sources as you prepare.  This is “the good work of others” that is a gift to ever teacher and preacher.

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

THEOLOGICAL LENS – What is revealed in this text about the nature of God?  How does this passage relate to Christ and how does Christ relate to it?  What does this text contribute to our understanding of Christ?  What in the context would connect to Him?  Finally, how does this text speak to the redemptive mission of God in the world?

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

PERSONAL LENS - Come back to this again!  How does this passage impact my life?  What is the Spirit of God impressing upon me through this text?  What is my response to God as I place my life before this truth?

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

ESSENCE LENS - Provide a succinct summary of the passage in view.  Work at declaring in a few words or sentences the essence of this text.  In some circles this is referred to as “the big idea,” but is truly all about answering the question – “What is this text seeking to say and do in the life of hearers?”

What I learned as a result of this is . . .

TEACHING LENS - As a result of what I have seen through these lenses, my first attempt or draft of a teaching framework would look like this . . .

From here you go to work on crafting the message for the audience or congregation before you . . .