One of the greatest joys of ministry has been developing great friendships with other pastors. This is one of the blessings of being part of a church-planting network. When it comes to church planting, we are better together.
We need each other as we press on in this good work of scattering communities of light in every nook and cranny of this dark world. With me on the podcast today is my good friend Harvey Turner, who interviews me in a “reverse podcast.” I’m excited to share some of my church-planting journey. We talk about baseball, marriage, adoption, eldership, Christ-centered expositional preaching, and more.
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Tony Merida: Welcome to Churches Planting Churches, a podcast on the theology and practice of church planting. I’m your host, Tony Merida.
One of the greatest joys of ministry for me has been developing great friendships with other pastors. This is one of the blessings of being part of a church planting network. In the New Testament, we find the Apostle Paul regularly visiting his friends, encouraging his friends, being comforted by his friends, doing ministry with his friends, and even getting beaten up with his friends. We find him praying with and for his brothers and sisters, that were members of different churches in different cities, and we find them rejoicing in the Gospel together.
When it comes to church planting, we are better together. We need each other as we press on in this good work of scattering communities of light in every nook and cranny of this dark world. We don’t need more adoring fans, we need actual friends. With me on the podcast today is my good friend Harvey Turner. Harvey and I have been friends for over 10 years, even though we live on opposite sides of the country.
He is the pastor of Redeemer Burbank in California. He’s a well-known speaker, a respected leader in Acts 29, and an author. He is married to Rachel. And last year, Harvey and I were together, and Harvey suggested that he interview me instead of me interviewing him. And so I’m not sure how this is going to work today, but I want to invite you in, into this conversation between two centers saved by Jesus, His amazing grace, who have been brought together as partners in the Gospel.
Harvey, great to see you, man. Welcome back to the podcast.
Harvey Turner: Yeah, man. It’s always good to be with you, bro. I appreciate you a lot. So yeah, man. Today, I’m interviewing you.
Merida: Yeah, man. I’m not sure how beneficial it will be. But I think you recommended this, what, ayear or so ago, and I haven’t… I didn’t agree to it. I asked around and people said, “Yeah, you should give it a shot.”
Merida: So, yeah. It’s just great to see you, brother. And fire away, man.
Turner: Yeah, yeah. How are you doing?
Merida: Well, I’m doing well. It’s a busy time right now. My wife and I are moving closer to the church building. We’ve had a commute since we started. You know, we were like most church planters, we didn’t know where we were going to end up in terms of facility permanently, you know, permanent facility. We finally bought a church building about three years ago as a church, and it required, you know, a bit of a commute, and that just never really liked being that far away from the building, even though we’re in a commuter, you know, suburbia area where people drive you know all the time.
But I still have dreamed of walking to the church, walking to the gym, you know, walking to the grocery store and all that good stuff. So we finally found a place, finally got in the right season where we could transition our kids in terms of school and everything. And so, a busy week, we’re making all that transition this week.
Turner: Yeah, and how’s the church doing?
Merida: Church is doing well. So we, this year, will turn nine years old, started out kind of a typical church planter story, I guess, in my house. And a lot of church planter stories start like that. We started in the middle school, moved into kind of a storefront. We were there for a long time, roughly five years, did a high school for 18 months while we kept the storefront as we were growing, trying to figure out the best way to, you know, accommodate for growth.
And then about three years ago, I found a church building in a great part of town, a great piece of property, a good building, not a perfect building, you know, not the building we would have built per se, but it served us well. And it’s really enabled us to reach really a different demographic in this season of our church life.
Started out with a lot of college students. We had folks from the seminary, we had, you know, our DU’s filled with college students. So, and then a lot of graduates who stay in the city. And so very, very young church, and now starting to get some age. I’m starting to get some age as well. You know, it’s funny when you start out the church, everybody’s complaining that the elders are too young.
And now, not many people say that anymore. But man, I love it. I love preaching at IDC. I love our people. I love Sundays. And, you know, I walked into the church building this morning at 7:30, and I just said, “Man, I love this church. I love being here.”
So, I’ve had a bit of a struggle honestly, we’ve talked about this, some probably on the podcast. But I miss the early days of church planting, I missed the challenge. I miss the adventure, the underdog spirit, you know. And it took me a while to get…kind of get settled into the idea of being here, you know, for the long haul.
And, you know, the Lord can do anything with our lives, as you well know, He could move us next year. But we really are at a good point of contentment and happiness here, and I don’t know, I don’t know what the Lord will do with our lives. But I’ve tentatively planned out my preaching calendar through retirement. So, we got it planned out, where I can…I want to preach through the entire Bible.
And we’ve preached to about a third of the books right now, and I…if the Lord would give us health and the ability and we do stay, you know that long, that would…I would want to…the idea of I’ve been here 25 years and preach through every book of the Bible, you know, I feel like that’s a good place to finish, with…I’ve made a ton of mistakes and failed people and failed in many different ways.
But I feel like that’s a noble goal to be able to say, you know, you fought a good fight, you taught the Word and you know. So, yeah, that’s just…you know, that’s my dream right now. Marriage is good. We have five kids, ages 15 to 20. You know, and it’s quite a challenge, all those teenagers, and then James who’s 20.
So, that always been for me, as I’ve talked to people, one of our biggest prayer requests, biggest burdens, is just raising five children. They all come, you know, through adoption. All have various challenges. And it’s been a sanctifying experience, we would do it all over again, though. But it’s been on top of church planting, adoption, you know, we did them both basically at the same time.
And it’s been very, very trying. So first sabbatical that I’ve ever had, coming up this summer, and really looking forward to that.
Turner: Yeah, man. Well, your church and you, and your preaching are a blessing to so many people. In fact, I always recommend you know, when people ask me what podcasts to listen to, sermon podcast, I always recommend yours, probably first. And so, I think your preaching ministry, your Christ-centered, expositional preaching I think is a good model for a lot of young church planters that want to preach the Bible.
And man, I look for forward to hearing you preach through all of the Bible. I’m going to join you on that journey through podcast, and…
Merida: Man, we’re doing… You know, last week, I was in Minnesota at Piper’s conference, pastors conference. And, you know, he’s been a hero of many of us for years. And so anytime you get a couple of minutes with John Piper, you never forget it.
Merida: And so, I was digging at him a little bit, because we were preaching to Ecclesiastes. And I said, “Hey, I noticed on <i>Desiring God</i> on the scripture index, the only book of the Bible that you don’t have there is Ecclesiastes.” And he said, “Well, I don’t have Song of Solomon either.” I’m like, “Really, because we’re doing that next. We’re going from Ecclesiastes to Song of Solomon.”
So we had a fun interaction. He was like, “Please teach me Ecclesiastes real quick.” I was like, “Well, that’s not how this works man.”
Turner: Well, I’m glad you got a chance to disciple Piper. He needs you.
Merida: I was like, “I don’t think you understand, Dr. Piper. The way this works is, I’m asking the questions and I’m taking notes, okay.”
Turner: Well, that’s funny. Oh, well, hey, I got a few questions I want to ask you about. And yeah, I guess first thing, you know, you’ve been hosting this podcast, but people don’t know a lot about you, probably. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about how you came to faith, how you became a pastor, you know, you pursued a doctorate.
So talk about that a little bit.
Merida: Yeah, man. I have very, very humble roots. I don’t know exactly how the metaphor goes, but you know, someone has said, when you…if you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you can be sure that the turtle didn’t get up on the fence post by himself. You know, that’s the way I feel about my life, is like… I was born in Detroit, Michigan, downriver, and to a long line of union factory workers.
And my mum was from Kentucky, and they…met my dad. They lived in Detroit about seven years, moved down to Kentucky after a lot of hardship, crime, and so on in the neighborhood. They just had all they could take basically and moved us to a really small town in Southeastern Kentucky.
And I was loved well by my parents. We were not poor, we were kind of, you know, blue-collar family. But it is kind of a depressed area that I grew up in, it’s not an area that anybody would vacation to, you know. And then we would take all of our vacations to Detroit.
So, my dad would take all his vacation days to go back up and see family. So I spent my first 20 years of Christmas, I guess, in Michigan, and we would go up every summer and watch the Tigers play. And so that was kind of back and forth, you know, from Kentucky to Detroit. And my dad was not a Christian until about nine years ago, and by God’s grace, I had the privilege of baptizing him.
And he’s been really growing in the Lord, it’s been awesome to see. My mom was a Christian, is a Christian, you know, faithful, prayer warrior, and will take me to church growing up, you know, gospel seeds were planted. But I really was, you know… the desire for the things of this world would choke the word as the parable, you know, describes.
So there was no life there. There was an interest at periods of time in my life as a young kid, but I was wrapped up into relationships. I was, you know, just a socialite and athlete. So, I went to college on a full baseball scholarship. I played a small school in Kentucky called Cumberland, and was a four-year starter at shortstop.
And went to…I think I went to three tryout camps for the majors, and I wasn’t good enough. But by that time, I’d become a Christian, and as a sophomore, and heard a seminar professor preach as a junior, and he did expositional preaching, and I said I want to do that the rest of my life.
And so, when I finished college, I packed a trunk and sold my car, it was a beat-up car, and flew to New Orleans, and lived with some folks on faculty. They gave me a spare bedroom that they had, it was pink, it had little bunny rabbits, and women’s hats. They were expecting a girl, and, you know, never got one.
And that’s where I lived. I worked in the gym on campus. And I was very intimidated by academia. And in fact, I thought I was going to quit the first day. I went to class, got a syllabus, and I was like, “I don’t know what these words mean.” And I had a friend who challenged me to stay for one semester, he said, “You should stay at least one semester.”
So I committed to one semester and ended up really loving it. And especially my master’s degree was super formative for me in developing my ecclesiology, probably more than anything, and developing my understanding of preaching, what the church is about. I had an interest in church planting as a student.
As a master student, I was actually in the church planting program. This was before, you know, Acts 29 or most of the things that we know today in the world of church planting. But I didn’t really have a mentor, our professors had moved at various points, and so our church wasn’t really talking about church planting. And so I just put it on the shelf for a while, ended up taking a traditional church in New Orleans, and was pastoring there at age 27.
And we went through Hurricane Katrina eight months in, and really, you know, it was a crazy ride, a very exhausting experience. We entered back into church planting discussions, and I wanted to plant in Washington, D.C., my wife is from that area.
And I love D.C. And we thought we were going to plant there, and then the seminary where I’d been in school in New Orleans offered me to be a dean of the chapel and a preaching professor. So I took that, but I thought I would plant a church in New Orleans and be on faculty there. And long story short, things just didn’t work out the way I anticipated.
I then became an interim pastor at a very large church in Mississippi, filled with some wonderful people. And I was the interim for about 18 months. So I was teaching in New Orleans, I would drive up to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, home of Brett Favre incidentally, and where he went to USM. And we had a great time.
And then I became the pastor there in kind of a transitional season of life, and that’s where I met you as we were part of Leadership Network. And the thing about it was that church planting had never left my heart. I had done, it seemed like everything, but planting church. And I remember that first Leadership Network meeting that you and I were in, in Dallas, I called my wife that night, and I said, “Baby, we got to plant a church before we die.”
And she said, “Yeah, I’m thinking in about three years.” And I just remember sitting in those rooms with you guys, it was 16 guys under the age of 40 who were pastoring churches over 800. I think that was the criteria for that particular group. And all your problems were different than my problems. We all had problems, but I was like, “I like church planting problems better than traditional church problems.”
And anyway, I met Tyler Jones, who’s a pastor here in the city with me, at Vintage, great friend, and he invited me up to an Acts 29 Boot Camp. And Raleigh was on our shortlist to plant in. And so, I went to the Boot Camp, drove around the city. And then along the way, the seminary in Wake Forest Southeastern heard I was interested in planting and asked if I would be interested in teaching.
And that worked well because I love teaching and I needed a job, and we had five kids, and we had insurance. And it was a great season, six-plus years teaching at the seminary while planting a church, while having five newly adopted kids. And after about six years, it was just really hard to keep up with the growth of the church and all of the complexities of the church and be a full-time faculty member too.
And so, we parted ways with Southeastern, and still love and respect them and support them, great friends there. But the last three years, I’ve been really just pouring in as much as I can into IDC. Along the way, you know, Acts 29 asked me to do some things. I just volunteered to do the podcast the first year, and then they added some stuff to my plate as we developed a partnership with The Gospel Coalition, which has been really wonderful, producing blogs there.
And so now we’re here looking at 9 years, hopefully, we can make that 10-year anniversary next year. I’ve got Ray Ortlund committed to preaching on our 10-year anniversary.
Turner: That’s great.
Merida: So I’ve got to make it at least 10 years, man, to have Ray there.
Turner: Yeah, man. Well, that’s a great that… I love that story. I love your guys’ journey. So thankful for you guys. And one of the things that, I think, as getting to know you, that has struck me is the role that Kimberly plays in your life and ministry. And you guys are really partners in the Gospel together.
Can you talk about that a little bit. Kimberly is obviously Tony’s wife, so…
Merida: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I’ve got one wife. And she’s the boss, man. Now, Kimberly and I met at youth camp, she was not a camper though. She was on staff with me. And we met doing ministry, and I think that was very important because we’ve only known each other in the realm of ministry. There was no abrupt shift of career or anything like that, that can often make, you know, marriages in ministry challenging.
But she only knew me as the camp pastor. And I still remember 2002 at Union University, I preached every night for 10 weeks, had Saturdays off, but every night… And you know, I preached the same sermons usually, tweak a little bit each week. But she was sitting in the front row, I don’t know, it was week three or four, I still remember what she was wearing.
And I just sensed, “I’m going to marry this girl.” And I tried to flirt with her all summer, and she wouldn’t flirt with me. But she went back to her room that night and told her friend that, “I think I’m going to marry a pastor.” Now, unfortunately, she didn’t say me, but she had moved, you know, from thinking she might marry someone in the military to a pastor.
And then I asked her out after worship one night to go to Starbucks with me, and I had Shane & Shane in the tape deck of my Toyota Celica, and we went on a latte. That was kind of our first date. Yeah, man. And from there, we just had a long-distance dating relationship. We got married.
We lived in the hood in New Orleans first year of marriage, made no money. I was a youth evangelist travelling around, preaching. She was doing a program through the seminary, taking senior adults on mission trips in New Orleans. And then I took a pastorate in New Orleans and Kimberly was very, very much a part of that, and always has been.
She was leading a lot of ministries in the city, in that church, to the battered women’s shelters, the homeless shelters, a lot of kind of mercy work. But she was also our pianist and was helping to lead worship as well. And then, you know, the church plant obviously, she’s been vital. And it really is a partnership in ministry.
I mean, Kimberly is a complementarian, as I am, as we are in Acts 29. But I think the good kind of complementarian, where I don’t see that Kimberly is, you know, just doing one or two things and she’s not allowed to do this or this.
We don’t even think like that. We think in terms of man, we’re doing ministry together. So what that means practically is… and she helps me in sermon prep. I work early in the week to get my sermon finished, but I’m often discussing it with her. I would usually have three or four different outlines in mind, and I’ll say, “Which one do you think the people would grasp best? What’s the best way to say this?”
Or it’s just also helpful to us to get a female’s perspective on your application in the sermon, so that’s really useful as she interacts a lot with the ladies in our church, especially single ladies, often neglected in a church and application is often really focused on families in a lot of church settings. It may not be so out in Burbank or in D.C. or New York where you’ve got a lot of singles but in a lot of areas, you know, it’s everything is so heavily family and I understand why that is. But we’ve worked hard to, in our pastoral prayers as well as our preaching, to really try to apply the text to the whole spectrum of people in our church. And so she’s been really helpful in that.
Man, she’s done a ton of work in mercy justice really around the world and she speaks at a lot of women’s events, that sort of thing. We really do have a tremendous marriage and I couldn’t praise the Lord enough. She’s a great mom. She’s really firm with the kids. I’m kind of the mercy guy.
I get brought in with the real big problems, but usually, I’m the mercy dad and the kids come running to me. But yeah, man, it’s…we’re going on 17 years and I couldn’t be happier.
Turner: Yeah. I think just knowing you guys and seeing how you do ministry together, even as you’re talking about you’re…you’re talking through sermons and you’re planting a church together. I think it’s a beautiful way for it to be done and a beautiful way to express complementarianism, as we do ministry together.
Merida: Yeah, and decision-making, you know, I didn’t mention that. But like even moving that I mentioned, like this has been together. I’ve wanted to move for two or three years, closer to our church building. But it’s, you know, I’ll wait on her. And it’s not that she’s in control or she’s leading, it’s that we were making decisions together. And I’m listening to her, she’s listening to me. And I think, I really think leaders in general lead by consensus best.
There’s a time in which you might have to be that minority voice or whatever and really, you know, it’ll be strong-headed. But usually, I think it’s unity, it’s moving people together. And I think that’s the same in a family.
Turner: Absolutely. Yes, consensus is such a better way to approach it. So one of the things you guys did together, so you planted the church together, but you also have… Orphan care has been a part of your guys’ ministry together, and eveni n your own household.
So can you, I know that’s a big part of your ministry so we can talk about that a little bit.
Merida: Yeah, that’s probably a whole other podcast, you know. But I had some friends that adopted and that really made an impact on me. My sister adopted from Ethiopia, but it was really the scriptures just digging into… I felt like I had a blind spot in my discipleship early on in the realm of neighbor love and mercy.
And I think it was the fear of liberalism or the social gospel. But as I just began to read through the scriptures, this God’s constant concern for the vulnerable, for the marginalized, for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, it’s just all over the place. And I was convicted, as I was preaching at a youth camp, they asked me to do the morning Bible studies on the poor.
And I started prepping. And as I was preaching that week about how we got to take care of orphans, and etc., I was just convicted by my own preaching because I could not name an orphan. And I was like, “Shouldn’t I know some orphans? Shouldn’t I know someone else?”
And I felt like I had measured spiritual maturity by how much I was keeping up with the Christian subculture, you know, how many books I read, how many people I knew rather than how much I was looking more and more like Christ. And I felt like my public life was, in many ways, out-shining my private life. And I didn’t want that to be the case and I wanted our family to…
I wanted there to be just, you know, integrity through and through. And I just felt like…and we’ve got a home, we’ve got money. Why aren’t we thinking about adoption? We initially did not go into it because of infertility. We had, you know, those problems later, but we were just motivated because we wanted to care for kids.
Thought we were going to adopt two kids. We’re approved for two kids under the age of five and went to Ukraine and found a sibling group of four and changed all of our paperwork and stayed over there 40 days and ended up bringing home four Ukrainian biological siblings, ages 4, 6, 7, and 9. That was about 12 years ago. And then, Joshua, about 11 years ago from Ethiopia.
We got home and after about a year, we thought we had room for one more and went and got Joshua. And so it’s just been a crazy journey. My sister went to get two kids as well. She did and found that one had three other siblings. And so she ended up with five. So we both have five adoptive kids, even though we both just wanted to get two. So it’s a lot of fun when we get together on Thanksgiving.
Turner: Yeah, man. That’s great. And I think that is, for anybody listening, I would recommend Tony’s… has a couple of books that touch on this topic. Ordinarytouches on this topic. And then what’s the name of your other book on…”Orphanology?”
Merida: Yeah, Orphanology yeah.
Turner: Yeah. All right. Well, yeah. So if you want to explore that a little further. a moment ago, you talked about collaborative leadership. And talk about that, how that functions in your church.
Merida: Yeah, so we practice plurality as well as parity. So we have a plurality of pastors and we have equal authority. I don’t have any more authority than the other 11 elders. What that means is we make decisions in consensus, in unity. And I may have a lot of ideas, and I do have a lot of ideas, but we don’t always do Tony’s ideas.
And I’m, at times, frustrated with that. I’m, at times, grateful for that. But overall, I think it’s the healthiest, it’s the wisest way to lead. Now, those 12 elders have a handle on the church. So every elder oversees a particular number of small groups. So they’re with those groups, they’re meeting with the leaders of those groups, they have a good sense of the church.
And when we meet together, I feel like there’s a sense of where we ought to be going, and what we ought to be doing, what the problems are, those kinds of things. So plurality and parity are huge for us. I’ve written about this but not everybody agrees with what I’m going to say but we don’t hold to a first among equals kind of eldership. I understand why people do and I don’t think that’s like wrong or evil or anything.
But we push back on it and say that we have first among equals depending on the issue. So, you know, when you have plurality, we have guys who are gifted and passionate about different things and in different ways. So, you know, when it comes to preaching schedule, I am the first among equals. When it comes maybe to church planting vision, I’m the first among equals.
But when it comes to budget, when it comes to certain shepherding things, I’m not. And I think the way that has to…the only way that can work is if the elders are not opinionated and strong-headed about everything. And so what we often say is, on a scale of 1 to 10, where are you at?
And if you’re a two on the scale of passion on a thing, you just defer. And so if we have a guy who’s an eight on, you know, our hospitality is not good anymore, we need more greeters at the front, well, now he’s in charge of that, because the other guys won’t be as zealous. We’ve had concerns about our policies not being ready for the 21st century, you know, wedding policies or whatever, three of you then, those of you who are really passionate about this. go get to work on it and bring us back a document and let’s sign off on it.
And so that’s how we operate, is really in the realm of who’s most passionate, who’s most gifted. And let’s, you know, delegate that out in terms of leadership and have a first among equals depending on the issue.
Turner: Yeah. So important, especially in light of our world right now. But having collaborative leadership makes a massive difference.
Merida: Yeah, man. Yeah.
Turner: All right. So, Tony, one of the ways in which I thought, I think I’ve seen you influence a lot is through your passion for expository preaching, and specifically expository preaching that is Christ-centred, preaching Christ from all of the scriptures. Personally, I think that that is one of the most important issues facing the modern church right now, is that we’re preaching the scriptures, and we’re preaching Christ from the scriptures.
And so you’ve written about this quite a bit. You wrote a book called, The Christ-Centered Expositor. What do you see, in trends in preaching, any advice that you would give for pastors that do desire to preach expository sermons that exalt Christ?
Merida: So one thing to keep in mind is, you know, when you and I talk about this and when we talk about this within, say, Acts 29 or in some other circles, I think there is sometimes the assumption that more guys are doing this than actually are.
And when the reality is it is not being done. In fact, I would even say it’s not even being promoted in a large number of seminaries. Christ-centred preaching is the whipping boy in a lot of schools. They don’t understand it, they don’t actually read what we’re writing about. And they make assumptions about what we’re doing, you know, accusations of allegory and all of that.
So, first of all, I would just say, as a guy who’s written about it, it’s easy for me, and if you’re in a certain circle to feel like, “Well, you know, this is kind of old hat now.” There’s a familiarity with this. Let’s talk about other things. And I understand that. But I also want to say, man, we have to keep talking about it. We are the tribe and with some other tribes that are promoting it and are doing it and are celebrating it and need to keep doing it because the next generation, you know, will not know Joseph, like in Exodus, you know.
So I’m still waving the banner and I’m going to wave the banner until I see Christ. And then I won’t have to preach anymore. But until then, I’m saying let’s keep being passionate about this. Let’s keep doing conferences on Christ-centred preaching and let’s not stop. One of the things that I love about Christ-centered preaching is not only do we, you know, see it modeled for us in the Bible, but it is what is needed around the world.
I preached in a leper colony one time in Nigeria, and what people need in a leper colony is not five steps on how to raise our kids, you know. They need Christ. And what they need in New York City is Christ. We preach a person, not a system and not a formula, but we herald a savior who has revealed himself in the word, who is himself the hero of the Bible.
And so I just, one, want to say let’s not get tired of talking about it. Let’s not get tired of promoting it. Let’s keep advocating for Christ-centered exposition. It is the great need around the world. With that said, you know, I tell our guys, “Look, when it comes to church planting and when it comes to preaching, just remember, if you’re explaining the Bible and you’re exalting Christ, and you love your people, you are doing a large portion of what you need to be doing.
The other 10% to 20%, you’re going to learn on the fly. You’re going to make some mistakes along the way. Yeah, people are going to get mad at that 10% to 20% that you’re not doing well. But when I come to the end of my life, and I can say, “Every week, for, by God’s grace, you know, 25 years, I made much of Christ from his word and I loved his people.”
I failed lot, but I did those two things. I just feel like that’s how I want to go out. So taking the long view of Christ-centered preaching, you know, and not just the practical, “How do you do it?” Those are great questions but, man, I just…I want to be as excited about doing this when I’m 60 as I am now.
When it comes to improvement, you know there’s a lot I could say. We don’t really have the time for it but this sounds very basic but you just…to be a good preacher, you’ve got to read the Bible a lot. I mean, more than most people do, more than most pastors do. Because what happens when you have a hermeneutic that sees Christ in all the scriptures, you begin to develop these instincts for seeing the connections within scripture.
And that’s one thing that sets apart Christ-centered exposition from crazy allegory, and that is their inner-biblical connections that are already there. They’re embedded in the text. There are themes that are woven in the text that converge on Christ and we’re just simply identifying them. We’re lifting them out of the text. They’re already there.
But if you’re not, if you’re only reading the Epistles, if you’re not exposing yourself to the whole Bible, reading a lot, then I think you won’t develop the instincts you need to develop. So I would just say get a practice of reading the scriptures thoroughly, over and over again, using commentaries, using study Bibles, whatever you’ve got to use. The second thing I would say is read biblical theology because to me this was the missing component when I first started doing expository preaching.
There was the great need of integrating biblical theology with exposition. Biblical theology, you know, seeing the themes spread across scripture, how these themes escalate as they move into the New Testament. Themes like temple, themes like kingdom, themes like God’s presence, kingship, etc. And the more you are familiar with these themes, you’ll be able to do what Bryan Chapell describes as reading the text with a magnifying glass but also the wide-angle lens, so you’ll be able to see how your text stands in relation to redemptive history and be able to do both end of preaching what is there in the text, the historical particularities in the text as well as the unified message of the gospel that cuts across the text.
And I think that’s really dynamic preaching. So read biblical theology, read the Bible a ton. And then thirdly, I would just say listen to guys who do it well and listen to them. Preach whole books, not just a sermon here and there, but like go journey with a guy through, particularly an Old Testament book, I would say.
Turner: Give us a couple of guys you like.
So, Sinclair Ferguson has been huge for me. Sometimes I had to put my brother Sinclair on double speed but I love Sinclair. Honestly, the Presbyterians have been doing this sort of thing for a long time. Most of us are in the more Baptist tradition, we’re trying to catch up. But Sinclair has been huge. Russ Moore, I listened to Russ Moore Sunday school classes on Exodus, and Proverbs and it was fantastic.
It really helped me see how he would journey through those texts and make, you know, legitimate connections to the gospel, and it warmed my heart. Kind of a [inaudible] experience. He’s been great. Honestly, man, there’s a lot of guys in Acts 29 that I just love to listen to.
Merida: Yeah, I agree.
Turner: Including you, Lucas Parks, Reuben Hunter in London. I just gave his name to somebody recently. So I really…and some of it depends on the series, who I’m listening to, but you find a guy who’s doing it. Usually what you can do is actually look at good commentaries that… where this is practiced in those commentaries and see who wrote it.
Chances are they preached it first or second and just go find their sermons and listen, that’s also helpful. But the more you listen and you just… you begin to train yourself in these sensibilities and these instincts.
Turner: Yeah, absolutely. And then, on the last of couple of questions, on the Bible reading, what is your Bible reading look like? How much do you read through it every year? What do you do?
Merida: I’ve done different things through the years but the main thing I do is I read, I guess the prime… The one thing I’ve done every year is I read five Psalms and a Proverb every day, that’s just for my own heart and devotion, prayer life, worship life. And usually, I’m doing that the old Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible reading plan and that will get you through the Bible and was in New Testament twice. And I have usually have the ESV Study Bible on hand or Logos on hand and it’s a good hour of reading that I’ll do pretty much every day, unless something’s coming up, you know, that prevents me.
And if you miss a day, it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Jesus still loves you. And you just press on tomorrow, but I try… The discipline of reading across the Bible and then having some helps there with you. And there’s some days where I don’t read all four of those chapters. Sometimes I’m like, “Man, this chapter on Job just has me, you know, wired up, and I want to explore that more.”
And so I don’t read it. I use it as a guide and not as a law, you know, to help me get through the word.
Turner: Man, that’s super helpful. Well, thank you for all you do for the kingdom, for Acts 29. Thank you for hosting this podcast. I know it’s a blessing to a lot of people. And it was my honor to host today and interview you, bro. So maybe we can do it again sometime on some specific topic.
Merida: Thanks, brother.