Exposition in Mission: A Missionary Trainee’s Perspective

EIM ArticleIt’s often said that Christians should study the word and aim to know it well, but how should we study the Bible? How do we exposit the scriptures to really understand what the text says?

Studying God’s Word has always been a struggle for me. I never really knew where to begin or how to do it on my own. For much of my Christian walk, studying has looked something like this:

1) Read a portion of scripture in a Study Bible

2) Look at the bottom of the page and read the commentary

3) Maybe look up some corresponding verses

4) See what John Piper (or someone else) has to say about it

I am incredibly thankful to have so many resources, books, articles, and commentaries. They have all been such a blessing to me. However, most of my “Bible exposition” had me looking to everything but the Bible to see what the Bible actually says. It left me more able to quote my favorite preachers than God’s Word. This shouldn’t be!

Furthermore, my study method wasn’t exactly something that could be replicated in a missions context. Many unreached people groups do not have the Bible translated into their own language– let alone all of the resources that we have available in English.

Thankfully, the Center for Pioneer Church Planting believes in teaching their Missionary Trainees Exposition in Mission (EiM), so that we can understand the scriptures ourselves, and so we can teach others how to understand it themselves. What is EiM? Trevor Holloway defines it well when he said, “It’s a fancy way to say that we are teaching trainees how to interpret, apply, and teach the Bible to others.” For our last EiM training, we went through 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus with Jim and Bryan Elliff.

No books, commentaries or Google searches were allowed — Just the text and colored pencils. The Elliffs didn’t hand anything over to us either — they made us do the hard work for ourselves! They taught us how to make observations, and ask hard questions. “What was the intent of the author? What was happening in these churches at the time Paul wrote to them? What was the application for the original audience? Where are the shifts in ideas? How do we apply it in our lives now?” It was difficult to meditate on the text and consider it’s meaning. My mind was fried at some points, but it was so rewarding.

The most exciting part of the class was being able to see things in God’s word that I hadn’t seen before. I felt like I had been seeing scripture from far away, understanding the easier surface-level things. This EiM had me rolling up my sleeves, diving in really close, and thinking through each scripture and how it fits within the context. I had read these books many times but this time, I walked away with so much more understanding than I ever had before.

I am so excited to apply this training to my own personal reading of the scriptures. Knowing more about the Bible means knowing more about the God that saved me. Understanding more about Him ignites a greater desire to see His name honored and praised throughout the ends of the earth.

I also look forward to replicating these concepts in cross-cultural missions. It’s so reproducible that not only could I teach it to one of the women in Mexico, but they could turn around and show others how to do it, and all they would need is God’s Word. What a relief not to have to write my favorite preachers and ask them to translate all of their work into Spanish!

By the end of the training week, I thought, “I wish we could do this every week.” Then I realized that I had everything I needed to do it every week by myself. I pray that one day someone I disciple on the mission field will have that same thought.

*BryAna is currently a first year Missionary-Trainee at the Center for Pioneer Church Planting with To Every Tribe.