A native of Irvine, Ky., Terry Jones has been the senior minister of Christ's Church at Tiffin since September 2006. Earning a bachelor's degree at Kentucky Christian University, Jones studied under Professor Thomas A. Dale and married his daughter, Alexis Dale, in 1973. Jones went on to obtain a master of divinity degree from Cincinnati Bible Seminary and a doctor of ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Shortly after taking his current post, Jones went to work on an instructional book to expand on the topic of expository preaching, a style he had learned from his father-in-law.
Terry and Alexis had hoped her father would write such a book himself, but he died in 1988, before he could begin the project. As a student, Jones remembered his professor, Dale, delivered most of his notes from memory.
"I decided then I'd like to write the book," Jones said. "It came also as a result of my last degree in seminary, which was on expository preaching. I did a written project for my degree, and some of that, I used for this.
"And I've also always wanted to write a book ... to do something maybe that somebody else hasn't done or differently than other people have done."
The finished book is "Preach the Word: Discovering and Applying the Text's Original Meaning." It is dedicated to Thomas Dale. Jones said he devoted part of his day off each week to writing. It became a five-year project, even when scaled down from its original concept. The author said he kept theological terminology to a minimum so individuals also could use the book as an aid to their personal study of the Bible.
"I assume the average person could read it in about two hours. I know that time is valuable for people," Jones said. "It was written primarily for preachers, but it's also for people who teach the bible. ... It's written very simply. It's not written on graduate level. It's written for the average person."
The book's subtitle offers a brief explanation of expository preaching. The minister must spend considerable time studying the Scripture he is planning to use to understand its meaning at the time it was first written or spoken. Jones said he often spends 20-25 hours examining a passage to discover its theme or underlying principle. The next step is to apply it to modern culture. Jones likes the word "apply" because it suggests bringing together two elements.
Although originally compiled for people who lived thousands of years ago, the Bible's teachings remain relevant to contemporary believers.
As an example, Jones explained the Jewish people of Old Testament times were taught to leave behind some of their harvest for the poor as a way to be a "good neighbor."
"We don't do that. We have a whole different system of helping the poor. It might be personally helping someone or donating to United Way, or giving through your church," Jones said. "The principle that we applied is, we need to help the needy, too."
Another example would be studying a manual to learn the rules for operating a motor vehicle. A person can memorize the rules and pass the driver's test, but he or she still must apply the guidelines to situations that arise but are not specified in the book. In the same way, some of the biblical texts are relatively easy to apply, while others are more complicated.
Jones said about 75 percent of his sermons are done in the expository style, which he has used throughout his career. He spent four years in Richmond, Va., 10 years at Paintsville, Ky., and 20 years at Elizabethtown, Ky., before coming to Tiffin. Jones said the more common trend in preaching, especially in growing churches, is to take a Scripture passage and relate it to some psychological concept to make listeners "feel good."
In contrast, expository preaching challenges listeners to feel what God is saying to them. People who are struggling with ethical issues may not want a sugar-coated explanation for their feelings of guilt, anger or regret. They want solid direction for decisions they need to make.
"It may be good to hear a little bit about right and wrong," Jones said. "Even those subjects we don't think are popular ... people want to hear. Sometimes we don't know when God's at work in someone's life."
About five years ago, Jones started a series of sermons that would touch on every book of the Bible. Coincidentally, the series was completed at about the same time as the book. His studies revealed that the number of times the Book of Deuteronomy uses the word "love" is second only to the Book of John. That discovery gave him a new perspective on the nature of the Old Testament writings.
"Most people don't know that because they think about all those prophets and their fiery judgment and those times that God said 'I'm going to judge these people,'" Jones said.
He has tried to share some of that knowledge in "Preaching the Word." The book includes a worksheet that guides the reader through the process of composing a sermon or lesson in expository style. Jones said he truly enjoyed the process of completing the book. Brad Modlin, a former graduate assistant at Heidelberg University, served as his editor. Modlin now is working on his Ph.D. at Ohio University.
"Brad was very helpful and the book was reduced down a little bit in text because he showed me how to do some of that," Jones said. "The publisher actually is MLAD locally. I worked with them and had a very good experience with them."
The staff at MLAD also designed the book's cover. Jones said he has given copies of the softcover book to family members and fellow leaders at the church. It also can be purchased at The Cross in downtown Tiffin and online from www.amazon.com.
Sunday services at Christ's Church in Tiffin are at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.