1. Paul is visiting a fairly small church in rural Indiana, where they will vote on him to be pastor. He is in his early twenties and currently a student at a nearby Christian college, where he is just beginning to study to be a minister. Since they are deciding whether they want him to be their pastor, he has been thinking a lot about 1 Timothy 3, which he has been told has to do with the qualifications for leading a church.
In his short time as a Christian, he has found The Message very helpful in figuring out what the Bible means, so he decides to preach from it on this morning. He nervously stands up, his first time ever to preach, and reads from 1 Timothy 3:1-7 in The Message:
"If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap."
After he reads the Scripture, he is a little uncertain of the small group in front of him. They had seemed warm enough when he came in, but throughout the sermon the crowd seemed full of frowns and folded arms. Even the church elder who had called him seemed to be frowning, and he had been very friendly before.
Paul tried to loosen them up a little while he talked. "Now I'm not married yet," he said, "but I promise I'll be committed to a wife once I find one. Believe me, I'm working on it." He thought for sure he would get at least a chuckle somewhere on that one.
"Now some think the word wine here should be translated grape juice," he said, trying to figure out why the temperature in the room was so cold. Maybe it's because I've only been a Christian a couple years, he thought to himself. He decided to try that one. "Now I know that I am a fairly young believer, so if you think God wants you to call me as your pastor, I'll be looking for you all to help me learn a lot of things even about being a Christian."
At that comment, the group seemed to soften a little. Smiles returned. After closing in prayer, he greeted the people. An older woman smiled warmly and told him that they would help him learn how to be a good preacher. He sat in the church office while they voted, and they did indeed ask him to be their preacher for the rest of his time in college.
As the lay leader of the church was debriefing him on the vote, he finally said, "Look, there's something I need to tell you if you're going to be our preacher. You can't preach from The Message," he said. "It's not even a real Bible. It's some guy's paraphrase.
"Most of the people in the church here use the King James Version and think any other version is of the Devil. But you should preach from the English Standard Version, the ESV, because it is the most accurate translation there is right now. We need to get these old people off the KJV and onto the ESV. But you absolutely can't use any of those liberal Bibles like the NIV2011 or the New Living Translation. And you definitely can't use The Message, because it isn't even a Bible"...