JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Create a Banquet

Writing experts say that half the struggle is getting people to read what you write. They also say that a good title is everything. This may be true. When I saw The Hottest Thing at Church is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader, the title of a Christianity Today (April 2017) article, I was enticed to read it.

It’s a good read. It highlights the fact that the number 1 explanation for why Americans go to church is for “Sermons that teach about Scripture.”

That’s music to my ears! I firmly believe that reading, preaching and appreciating the Word (which is to appreciate the One of whom the Word speaks) should rank above every other reason for why we go to church.

Which reminds me of something a veteran Bible teacher and preacher recently said to me, “We should lay out a banquet for people to feast from when they come to church.” He’s absolutely right. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word should be spiritually tasty and filling.

Unfortunately pastors don’t always provide their congregations with a weekly banquet on God’s Word. Sometimes it’s only a snack and sometimes it’s just a morsel – certainly not enough to sustain or nourish a congregation.

Pastors, “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). That’s literal language. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not figurative. With every ounce of strength and passion, prayerfully and humbly, carefully and patiently, in the power of the Spirit – preach the Word! Exegete the text. Do everything possible to invite every person to enter into the Scriptures, engage the Scriptures, encounter the One of whom the Scriptures speak, and emulate the Scriptures in everything they say and do.

I still remember, about 30 years later, how one pastor told me that it only took him 3-4 hours to prepare his Sunday message. He was proud of this because it gave him more time to spend with his family … the implication being that it was good and right for him to make his family his highest priority. I’m still flabbergasted! A good message takes days of preparation, hours and hours of wrestling with the text, and even sleepless nights as the preacher seeks to reconcile himself with the text because he knows he can’t preach if the Scriptures don’t have ascendency in his own life.

In fact sermon preparation is somewhat similar to cooking. When my wife and I want to prepare a really nice meal for friends or family it takes us about two full days to do the planning, shopping, cooking, table setting, vacuuming and dusting (our house must first be clean before we can serve up a banquet), dish washing and drying. Similarly, when I prepare a sermon I know it requires planning, getting all the ingredients together, arranging and organizing, making sure my own house is in order before I tell others how to get their house in order, serving something sumptuous, and doing what needs to be done so that others will say, “Thanks, that was great!”

One more thing: I’m a nobody when it comes to cooking and I’m a nobody when it comes to preaching. But that’s okay. The Christianity Today article mentions how the Gallup poll also discovered that “people in the pews care far more about what’s being preached than who’s preaching it.” That’s good news for every ordinary pastor who is diligently feeding the congregation a Sunday banquet week in and week out.

It’s also a reminder that the preacher plays the supportive, not the main role. When I go to a restaurant and eat a good meal, the food itself, not the chef, is the focus of my gastronomic experience. Similarly, the texture, flavour and aroma of the Scriptures should be the focus of the preaching, not the preacher. And for this to happens the preacher’s main aim should be to preach the Word so that everyone can “taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Preaching and Teaching

I love to read, study, teach and preach the Word. But looking back on more than three decades of ministry I realize I could have done more to help others develop confidence in the Word, build community focused on the Word, and encourage conversations about the Word.

So what can teachers and preachers do to promote confidence in, community around, and conversations about the Word? Consider the following:

Read the Scriptures every time you teach or preach the Word. Don’t cut out or truncate the reading of the Word to make more time for what you want to say. The Word of God should always be the main point, not the footnote of the lesson or sermon.

Public reading of the Scriptures should be done with conviction, enthusiasm, passion, fluency and expression. Worship teams/choirs practice their singing – Scripture readers should likewise practice their reading.

God’s Word is holy. Read it with reverence. At the conclusion of a public reading say something like, “Hear the Word of the Lord” or “These are the most important words you will hear today.”

Be prayerful. Before you preach/teach ask God to address and apply the Word to your heart and life. When you preach/teach begin with the prayer, “Lord speak to us, we’re listening . . .” or “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” Psalm 19:14 (NIV).

“Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2), not your ideas, philosophy, or personal agenda. Make every effort to weave the Scriptures through every facet of what you say. Emphasize the Scriptures by saying, “The Word says . . .” or “In . . . God says . . .”

Teach the whole canon of Scripture. Don’t reduce the Bible to a canon within the canon by only preaching/teaching your favourite books, texts or stories. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV).

Preach and teach all the major themes of the Bible. Over the course of time your group/congregation/class should learn/understand the meta-narrative of (creation, fall, redemption and consummation) and how events are still unfolding.

Let the Word speak for itself. Don’t overshadow it with your stories, presentation style, exegetical prowess, “wisdom and eloquence” (1 Corinthians 1:17), creativity or personality. And don’t distract from it by lack of preparation, personal reservations, luke-warmness, academic arrogance or intellectual presumption.

Never forget that it’s the Holy Spirit who gives life and power to the Word – enabling the listener to hear the Word and live it out. Only God can speak and sustain His Word. The role of the preacher or teacher is to serve as a conduit (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5) – nothing more and nothing less.

Remember that God’s Word is far more important than anything we can ever say about it. The primary aim of all preaching and teaching should be to equip others to actively indwell, engage and get caught up in receiving and reenacting the Word (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:20 NLT).

What do you think? Would you add or subtract anything?

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Preach the Word

I’ll never forget Warren Wiersbe’s intensity as he gripped my hand, stared at me through large horn rimmed glasses, and said, “Lawson, preach the Word!” When a veteran pastor, teacher, writer and theologian clearly and compellingly counsels a course of action, one does what one’s told to do! Even more so when one knows the directive is the same charge Paul solemnly gave to Timothy (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Preaching is a vital cog in the wheel of Bible engagement. To know the Word, people have to hear the Word. To hear the Word, someone has to proclaim the Word. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 (NIV).

In North America there are about 700,000 vocational pastors, chaplains, preachers, teachers, ministers and evangelists who kerrusso (Greek meaning to herald and proclaim divine truth) the Word. Through times of convenience and inconvenience, regardless of cost or response, God commissioned men and women have an awesome trust: to give their all to declare the message of the King!

Preaching is unique. It’s not a talk about spiritual matters. It’s taking a stand with God’s Word. It’s allowing God, by the Holy Spirit, to speak the Word through you. It requires conviction, love, patience and endurance. And it requires a kingdom perspective – preachers must never lose sight of the fact that it’s not our words, but His Word we proclaim.

When the divine agent works through the human conduit, variety and creativity abounds. Despite the fact that different preachers deliver the Word differently, everyone should aim to preach the Word so that it:

  • is Christ-centered
  • proclaims the Gospel
  • profiles the Trinity
  • exudes grace
  • demonstrates the Spirits power
  • connects with the big Story
  • exegetes the text
  • explains and interprets culture
  • contains sound doctrine
  • hooks in with the audience
  • highlights truth
  • honours the biblical context
  • challenges, warns and urges
  • is organized, clear and focused
  • is authentic, relevant and authoritative
  • encourages questions
  • engages imagination
  • helps listeners hear from God
  • trains in righteousness
  • equips for good works
  • declares the counsel of God
  • emphasizes faith and obedience
  • invites repentance
  • moves hearers to action
  • informs the mind, inclines the heart, guides the will
  • prompts discussion and application
  • forms and transforms people in Christ
  • sends people back to the Word

Pastors, preach the Word! Every time you step into the pulpit make the Word the main point, not the footnote, of your sermon. Your preaching methodology, delivery style and even your sense of humour – everything must serve one end – to explain and proclaim God’s Word. Why? Because when the Bible speaks, God speaks!

Much more could be said. What would you add or subtract from the comments above?

[Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Thank your pastor for preaching the Word. 1 Timothy 5:17]

© Scripture Union Canada 2013