Preaching: Raiding or Reading?

I have a very brief post, and it concerns how and what we preach. Observing internet sermons, reading sermons by famous pastors and the like, I see two sorts of preaching (there are of course more and nuances between them — and good lectionary preaching is a combination of both):

Do you think we need to return to preaching Bible books or portions of Bible books? What does your church tend to do?

Bible Raiding. This sort goes to the Bible to find support for an already-decided-upon idea, to get answers from the Bible on the basis of a surface reading of the Bible (what does the Bible say about investments, Bible verses here and there, rather than how does Paul’s teaching on the collection for the saints take root in financial support), and lets what the preacher want to say and what the preacher believes establish what is to be preached. (I’m not against topical preaching; I’m not against themes; but I’m pushing a distinctive here to make a point.) This sort rarely preaches a book from the Bible — a whole book. The major issue here is that sermons tend to be agenda driven — the agenda of the preacher.

Bible Reading. This sort goes to the Bible to see what it says and what it says shapes what the preacher preaches and teaches. “Application” (not my favorite of terms) emerges from a close Bible reading, and often surprises us, but the secret here is gradual teaching of what the Bible says and allowing the Bible’s big story to shape what we see in each book of the Bible. This sort often preaches whole books. The danger here is that the sermons tend to lack focus for the average Christian and get to be intellectual exercises in informing people about an ancient text.

There are problems with each, but there’s too much Bible raiding today and not enough Bible reading.

When I begin teaching at Northern Seminary this Fall, I will emphasize Bible reading.

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