Preaching from the NLT

I have been preaching the Gospel for just over 9 years now. In that time, I have preached from only 3 versions of the Bible: a very brief stint in the KJV, followed by probably 5 or 6 years (maybe 1 or 2 more) from the NIV, and the last couple of years from the HCSB. There were times when I would preach from the Hebrew Bible or the GNT, if the passages were not overly complex, but I didn’t make it a regular practice. I did that mainly as an exercise in discipline–I had better know it if I were going to stand in the pulpit and expound it!

I’ve recently (as in the last two weeks) begun preaching from the NLT in the evening service. Let me say that I have really come to enjoy the NLT, much more than I did when I first read it many years ago. That being said, I have not enjoyed it nearly as much as my preaching bible. Granted, I’ve only been at it two weeks, but thus far I haven’t been as comfortable with it while preaching. I can’t quite pinpoint why; perhaps a few more weeks will reveal this and maybe I will even begin to enjoy it while preaching. So, I will continue with it up to my stop on the Mosaic NLT blog tour, which is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Αυτω η δοξα,



17 thoughts on “Preaching from the NLT”

  1. Jason, I toyed around the idea of maybe preaching my Philippians series from the NLT. I have read it cover to cover in the following translations in the last few days: HCSB, NLT, NET, and TNIV. Right now I am still leaning on the TNIV. I will post why I chose this translation as the primary preaching text over the other ones.

    I really do enjoy the NLT, and the other ones mentioned as well.

  2. Jason, I can understand that feeling. I used to know passages by where they were on the page in my NASB. I’ve since lost that Bible and never bonded with another (sniff). Preachers really use their pulpit Bible like a skilled tool and just switching to a different one is going to be difficult.

  3. Robert: Unless I change my mind, I will probably revert back to the HCSB for preaching. It just feels more like a preaching translation, which is probably because I’ve been preaching from it for a while now! I still like the NLT, though, and will continue to use it for non-study reading.

    David: Right you are! It’s not only the translation I like for preaching, but a particular bible. You just get accustomed to it–the size, the type, where passages are located, etc.–and it is hard to change!

  4. I like reading from the NLT. When I start researching a passage or something and look in the NLT, I have a harder time finding it. If I don’t know the verse by number, it may take a while. I can’t relate to preaching from a particular Bible, but I suspect it might be the same sort of thing(?) – familiarity.

  5. Jason, I preached and taught out of the HCSB for about 3 years. I think the reason I was so comfortable with it, is that it just felt like the NKJV (I read and memorize from it for over 20 years) but revised, smoothed out and cleaned up. But once I abandoned the NKJV, and got a little educated on bible translations I just started reading all of them NLT, TNIV, etc. This year I had committed to reading the TNIV, and at first it was a bit different, but then I began to appreciate those differences.

    That’s where I am at right now, looking forward to the NIV 2011, and hope that it further refines the T/NIV bible.

  6. Peter: I know what you mean. I think why I don’t like preaching from it is the often condensed interpretations. A longer sentence in Greek may be reduced to a much shorter sentence in English. There’s nothing wrong with that so long as it conveys the original meaning, but after exegeting the Greek and preaching from the HCSB, I am accustomed to the slightly less-polished renderings.

    Robert: It’s good practice to read from multiple translations. I have made that a part of my exegesis. It’s also good to stick with one translation when teaching/preaching. I think the consistency is beneficial for the hearer. It drives me absolutely nuts to listen to Rick Warren–PICK A TRANSLATION!!! 🙂

  7. Jason, I totally agree with you, that is why I am sticking with the TNIV. Overall it meets my needs, and clearly communicates God’s word, while not being too wordy. It’s a nice balance, I think the HCSB is about the same, but there are just a few things that I don’t like about it. They are minor and I have blogged about them before. But again I do own 4 versions of the HCSB, one of which is the Legacy Bible, very nice supple leather.

  8. Robert: I will have to read your posts on the HCSB. I’ve come across a few bumps in the road in my time with this translation, but they are usually the result of interpretive differences. I didn’t mention it in my earlier reply, but I am also looking forward to the NIV 2011. I loved the NIV, but didn’t get into the TNIV, primarily because I don’t like to change translations. I still want to purchase one sometime, though.

  9. I can identify with your experience. I have spent most of this year experimenting with switching my teaching/preaching translation. For now, I have settled on the HCSB, but I really enjoy the NLT. I quote it often, and have even read lengthy passages out of it (particularly during a study on Exodus), but I too am not sure I would be comfortable preaching from it full time for many of the reasons you convey. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  10. Doc: Thanks for stopping by. I think that the NLT would be perfect for longer narrative portions of the OT and the longer discourses in the NT. As I mentioned above, I will keep with it through my blog tour date and reassess then. Thanks again for stopping by!

  11. Well, two off the bat: 1. translation of metanoew as “repent from sin and turn to God,” is not always the best rendering. 2. Dikaiow and its cognates means more than “being made right with God.”

  12. I’m sorry to rain on the parade of the HCSB fan club, but I simply can’t understand you people. Rick Mansfield speaks of its “unsurpassed technical accuracy,” and Jason remarks on of its “feeling like a preaching translation”–but try as I might, I can see none of it! For crying out loud, was it really so hard to hire an English stylist? 😉

    Regarding the NLT, I was 18 in 1996 and a freshman in college, and I purchased a copy a day or two after it was released. Shortly thereafter, I started to teach a Bible study on Acts at my school, and decided to give the NLT a test ride. Precocious young lad that I was, I had 5 or so years of Greek under my belt then, and so I would retreat to the library with my second-hand, tattered, and beloved edition of Souter’s Greek New Testament and my brand-spankin’ new NLT in order to read the text, and to avail myself of the wealth of commentaries found there. (I went to a Christian college with a seminary on campus, so the theological library was remarkably good.) Well, although I had expected to find much fault with the NLT, instead I was consistently impressed by its handling of difficult passages and thorny exegetical and theological questions; I also found it to be an eminently teachable text.

    Needless to say, further reading of the NLT has brought to light much to fault, especially in the Pauline epistles; but I still relish that First Impression of the NLT and the thrilling months of journeying through Acts with my peers.

  13. Esteban, always great to hear your input. Right now the two main bibles that I work with are the TNIV and NLT. After consulting those two I will review what the HCSB says, or NET. NET is a translation that I am using more often now, more than the HCSB. But we will see when the 2nd edition is release, I have the digital copy and it’s better.

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