THE Scriptures provide the foundation for instruction given at our congregation meetings. Bible texts are also focal points in what we say in the field ministry. How much these contribute to our discussion, however, depends in part on how effectively they are introduced.
More is needed than simply referring to the scripture and inviting someone to read it with you. When introducing a scripture, endeavor to accomplish two objectives: (1) Arouse anticipation, and (2) focus attention on the reason for using the text. These objectives can be attained in a variety of ways.
Ask a Question. This is most effective if the answer is not already obvious to your audience. Endeavor to phrase the question in a manner that makes people think. Jesus did this. When the Pharisees approached him in the temple and publicly tested his understanding of the Scriptures, Jesus asked them: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They replied: “David’s.” Jesus then asked: “How, then, is it that David by inspiration calls him ‘Lord’?” And with this he proceeded to quote Psalm 110:1. The Pharisees were silenced. The crowd, however, listened to Jesus with pleasure.—Matt. 22:41-46.
In the field ministry, you might use such introductory questions as the following: “You and I have personal names. Does God have a personal name? We can find the answer at Psalm 83:18.” “Will there ever be one government for all mankind? Notice how this is answered at Daniel 2:44.” “Does the Bible really deal with conditions that exist in our day? Compare what is stated at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 with conditions that are familiar to you.” “Will there ever be an end to suffering and death? The Bible answer can be found at Revelation 21:4, 5.”
In a discourse, careful use of questions to introduce scriptures can motivate your audience to take a fresh look at texts, even those familiar to them. But will they do so? That may depend on whether the questions that you raise are of genuine concern to them or not. Even when the subject is of interest to the audience, their minds may drift when you are reading texts that they have heard many times. To prevent that from happening, you need to give the matter enough thought to make your presentation appealing.
Present a Problem. You might present a problem and then direct attention to a scripture that has a bearing on the solution. Do not lead the audience to expect more than they will get. Often a scripture provides only part of the solution. However, you might ask the audience to consider, while you read the text, what guidance it does give for dealing with the situation.
In a similar manner, you might state a principle of godly conduct and then use a Bible account to illustrate the wisdom of following it. If a scripture contains two (or perhaps more) specific points related to what is being discussed, some speakers ask the audience to watch for these. If a problem appears to be too difficult for a particular audience, you can stimulate thought by presenting several possibilities and then allowing the text and its application to provide the answer.
Cite the Bible as the Authority. If you have already aroused interest in your subject and stated one or more views on some aspect of it, you might introduce a scripture by simply saying: “Note what God’s Word states on this point.” This shows why the material that you are going to read is authoritative.
Jehovah used such men as John, Luke, Paul, and Peter to write portions of the Bible. But they were only writers; Jehovah is the Author. Especially when speaking to people who are not students of the Holy Scriptures, introducing a text by saying “Peter wrote” or “Paul said” may not have the same force as an introduction that identifies the text as the word of God. It is noteworthy that in certain instances, Jehovah instructed Jeremiah to introduce proclamations by saying: “Hear the word of Jehovah.” (Jer. 7:2; 17:20; 19:3; 22:2) Whether we use Jehovah’s name in introducing scriptures or not, before we conclude our discussion, we should endeavor to point out that what is in the Bible is his word.
Take the Context Into Account. You should be aware of the context when deciding how to introduce a scripture. In some cases you will directly mention the context; however, context may in other ways influence what you say. For instance, would you introduce the words of God-fearing Job in the same way that you would a statement made by one of his false comforters? The book of Acts was written by Luke, but he quotes, among others, James, Peter, Paul, Philip, Stephen, and angels, as well as Gamaliel and other Jews who were not Christians. To whom will you ascribe the text that you quote? Remember, for example, that not all of the psalms were composed by David and not all of the book of Proverbs was written by Solomon. It is also beneficial to know who was being addressed by the Bible writer and what general subject was being discussed.
Use Background Information. This is especially effective if you can show that circumstances existing at the time of the Bible account were similar to those that you are discussing. In other instances background information is necessary in order to understand a particular text. If you were to use Hebrews 9:12, 24 in a talk on the ransom, for example, you might find it necessary to preface your reading of the text with a brief explanation of the innermost room of the tabernacle, which, the scripture indicates, pictures the place Jesus entered when he ascended to heaven. But do not include so much background material that it overshadows the text that you are introducing.
To improve the way that you introduce scriptures, analyze what experienced speakers do. Note the different methods that they use. Analyze the effectiveness of these methods. In preparing your own talks, identify the key scriptures, and give special thought to what each text should accomplish. Carefully plan the introduction for each one so that it will be used with the most telling effect. Later, widen out to include all of the texts that you use. As this aspect of your presentation improves, you will be focusing greater attention on the Word of God.