Tony Merida is lead pastor Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He earned a Ph.D. in preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as associate professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also one of the editors of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary volumes, showing readers how to see Christ in all aspects of Scripture.
WORDsearch chatted with Tony about his Bible study tips, sermon prep, and more.
WORDsearch How do you use technology in your study of the Bible or writing your books?
Tony Merida: I use a variety of resources in sermon prep and book writing. I use Bible software on a daily basis. I have it on three devices, and I’m constantly looking at it, as I do sermon prep, when I listen to sermons, or just when a question about a text arises. I have found it extremely useful. I also use the Bible on my Kindle regularly. I also listen to sermons when in the car.
WS: Do you have any Bible study tips?
TM: There’s no substitute for simply reading the Bible – a lot. In addition I would say read it with a heart of prayer, asking God to give you understanding and to impress it on your heart. Then I would just remind you to always consider some basic interpretative principles like these: (1) always consider the context of your selected passage; (2) consider the type of genre that you’re reading; (3) remember that the Bible is a unified book of redemptive history, so see how your passage fits within the overall drama of Scripture, and how it points to Jesus; (4) interpret unclear passages with clear passages; and (5) read with a desire to obey what you’re reading.
WS: How do you make sure you don’t start viewing the Bible as purely academic?
TM: I think it’s very important to read the Bible in an attitude of prayer, desperation, and expectation. We need to remember that when doing exegesis, we aren’t dissecting a frog, examining it in strictly a scientific manner; nor are we looking at it as a mere historical document, but rather, when we open the Scriptures, we’re communing with the living God. We should read the Bible with proper exegetical principles, and we should appreciate the historical accuracy of the Bible, but we have to remember that when we open the Word of God that we’re – in a sense – opening the mouth of God (2 Tim 3:14-17). Therefore, we should prayerfully ask God to not only give us understanding, but for Him to also impress His truth on our hearts, and help us to adore Jesus, the Hero of the Bible, as we approach His God-breathed Scriptures on a daily basis.
WS: What advice or encouragement do you have for pastors in their sermon preparation?
TM: Well, there’s a lot I could say! (And have written elsewhere). Let me just list a few thoughts:
- Let the text drive the sermon not your opinions.
- Make the hero of the Bible (Jesus), the hero of every sermon. To preach life changing sermons, we must keep the Life-Changer at the heart of every sermon.
- Preach to the unbeliever and believer. Try to get everyone on the bus in the introduction. Make sure the person non-Christian knows that you’re talking to them, and that the sermon isn’t just for insiders.
- Preach from the heart to the heart.
- Be engaging. Don’t give a lecture. Engage all types of listeners.
- Read and write a lot. This will improve communication.
- Love people. The goal isn’t just to get through your material, but to get through to people that you care about.
- Pray throughout the whole process.
- Ask God to ignite your heart in the study so that you can’t wait to preach on Sunday.
WS: Was there a specific place/places when you were working on the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary that surprised you to see Christ? What did it teach you?
TM: My personal study of Exodus really wowed me. The book is so redemptive and beautiful. But I also felt like the book of Kings taught me much about the redemptive storyline of the Bible, as well. The connections between Kings and the Gospels were particularly thrilling.