Eugene Peterson is the pastor-preacher-professor who translated the Bible into the highly popular paraphrase, The Message. One of the most striking aspects of The Message is how Peterson used everyday language in it. The ‘everyday’-ness of the wording is sometimes strange because we are used to using one set of words for our religious life and another set of words for our ‘secular’ life.
You can see this most clearly in pastors who teach up front. It does not take long for a preacher to completely disconnect from his listeners through word choice and a lofty vocal inflection that is completely foreign to the vocabulary and conversation of our daily lives. At times, this only heightens the sense that God is irrelevant to our ordinary lives.
Eugene Peterson has something powerful to say about that. As communicators of God’s message, we must ‘enter into the conversation’ of people’s everyday lives. Speaking of how his preaching led him to the idea of The Message, he says: “I’d been listening to Scripture all my, but I hadn’t been listening to people….so I started listening to them; entering into their conversation…their world.”
Whether you use the word ‘relevance’ or not, we cannot communicate the message of God without two-way listening. We must listen to God in Scripture. We must take the time necessary to faithfully ‘hear’ what God is speaking as we study, dig into the original languages, consult commentators, and mull over the Scripture text.
But we also must not fail to listen to those we will speak to. We must also take time to hear what they are speaking as we engage with their real lives, struggles, joys, relationships, and more.
We must listen in order to speak.
Take a look at this brief video about preaching and how pastors need to “enter the conversation” with the people around them in everyday life.