I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Mike Riches, head pastor at Harborview Fellowship Church in Gig Harbor, Washington to discus how as a pastor he uses a study Bible to enhance his personal study and lesson preparation for his weekly sermon requirements. As a pastor he a different view of the Bible because it is his work place.
I came to an understanding of what it means to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, to have my sin forgiven, and to be guaranteed an eternal life as a teenager. My dad had a saving relationship with Jesus Christ just before I became a teenager. It was his changed life, which included a passionate devotion to living for Jesus that most influenced me. Several years later I too surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and received Him as my Lord and Savior.
How did you know you wanted to get into church ministry and pastoral work?
It happened gradually. I had not even considered it as an option in my early 20’s. As a young man, I had a real passion to serve Christ, and did in a local church. But I thought my serving God would be as a lay-person in the realm of business. A real hunger to know and understand God’s Word grew in me and consequently I took courses in Bible and theology which eventually led to seminary courses. Soon a desire to see people experience God’s life and spiritual transformation took root in me. It wasn’t long before I began to imagine what would a spiritually vibrant and healthy local church of people look like. Finally, I had a much greater desire to give myself to that vision than anything else. Then at 30 years of age I found myself pastoring a church.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?
It is hard to narrow down an answer to that question. While there are many aspects of ministry that I find rewarding there are a few that stand out to me at present. First, I love helping people discover their purpose and full potential in Christ. Seeing people come into a fuller understanding of who they are as a son or daughter in the heavenly kingdom is tremendously rewarding. This is what makes ministering in the church so worthwhile. Second, I love getting to know and connect with members of the body of Christ throughout the world. Part of my job is traveling and helping strengthen leaders and churches around the world. This work is so enriching to my soul because I get to see God at work in all areas of life across his people. I would also say that my work provokes me to increasingly grow in my own relationship with God and revelation of His truth that is so relevant to life.
How have you stayed close to Christ and true to your faith over time?
It is by God’s grace that I have remained in the faith. Each year that passes dear friends in the faith lose their way so it is always at the forefront of my mind how important it is to pursue my relationship with the Lord. This is done primarily by my getting time in the Word, in worship, and of course in communicating with Him.
Another aspect that has helped me on my journey is to remember that following Jesus is a marathon rather than 100-yard dash. Keeping this truth at the forefront of my mind helps me remember that it is okay to have ups and downs in my daily life if I am still pressing into who He is.
I also have tried to live my life with an eternal focus. This helps me keep my perspective when life throws its challenges my way. Keeping this perspective helps me not to get low when the challenges of life become too heavy to bear. When I remember that God is on the throne and that all of this is for his glory I can have the perspective I need to get through the day.
Living so as to be self-aware as to what and how am I feeling is important. Does the fruit of the Spirit prevail in my mind, emotions, and decisions? If not I must find the reason and take corrective action.
Lastly, I try to keep short accounts. Unforgiveness, resentment, taking on offenses, insidious entitlements, and the like will bring various levels of ruin. Living in a constant state of forgiving, repentance, and humility is crucial.
How do you use a study Bible in your daily life?
Reading Scripture is vital for believers of any level of maturity because it helps each to develop and grow in his or her faith. The same is true for me. I am continuously striving to grow and be better in my walk with Christ. When I was younger in my Christian life a study Bible was very helpful in that it provided quick and easy access greater understanding of the Scriptures. This could be other scriptures that shed light on the scripture I was reading or sometimes there would be a study note explaining a relevant or corollary truth to what I was reading. But it is always important to remember that the notes in a study Bible are not God-inspired or infallible Scripture. They are simply human contributions.
Do you use a study Bible for your sermon preparation?
Kind of . . . by that I mean that I use aids that assist me in understanding the Scripture. But now it is in the form of electronic Bible software. Modern study tools are amazing compared to the “old school” of study decades ago. That consisted of study Bibles and reference books in the form of hard copies spread all over your desk and floor. It also included a lot of page turning. Now it involves mouse clicks and search engines. The time that is saved with modern day tools is phenomenal. Study tools always have been and still are extremely helpful in learning and understanding Scripture which is foundational to sermon preparation.
What other tools do you use to prepare for your lessons?
It is important to ask the question; “What was meant by what was said by the original author and what was intended to be understood by the original audience of the text?” To answer those questions there are several bridges that must be built back to the original text. One bridge is that of language both in vocabulary and grammar, another bridge is historical context, and a culture bridge must be built. There are vocabulary dictionaries, lexicons, and interlinear Bibles for the original languages that build the first bridge. Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries help build the bridges of historical and cultural contexts of the original authors and audiences. Those provide a good foundation for healthy Bible study and learning.
How do people get in touch with you?
People can get in touch with me in a variety of ways. They can check out my personal blog at mikeriches.org. Or people can explore my church website at Harborview Fellowship. People could also learn about me through my non-profit ministry called Sycamore Commission. People can also check out the books I have written: Living Free: Recovering God’s Design for Your Life, Hearing God’s Voice, and the Freedom Prayer Training Manual.