Well yesterday’s post stirred more response than usual! Andy Stanley stated his point in strong terms, which probably sparked some response. While as an Englishman I might state the same point in a slightly more understated way, I do urge people who attend my preaching courses to stick in their primary passage most of the time. Naturally people ask for exceptions to that suggestion. I have two main exceptions in my own thinking. Let me share those with you and then ask what other exceptions you might add to the list. As I wrote yesterday, there are fewer legitimate reasons to use multiple cross-references than we tend to think.
1. When the idea of the primary text does not sound biblical. If you preach a passage and clarify the point, but people internally react with a metaphorically raised eyebrow. “Is that biblical?” In this instance I might run through a series of other passages very quickly that support the same idea. In this situation I am not developing each cross-reference in detail, or going topical for multiple points, but simply allowing the weight of evidence to underline the biblical nature of what the primary text is saying.
2. When the primary passage leans heavily on another biblical passage. For example when preaching the middle of 1Peter 3 recently, I was very aware of how much Psalm 34 was influencing Peter’s thought at that point, so I took some time to go back there during the sermon. Again, not a topical approach, but supportive of the primary passage.
I can imagine one or two other reasons to go to other passages that may be legitimate too, but these are the main two in my thinking. I’d love to hear more interaction on this subject.
I think we should be wary of anything that sounds like “memory trigger cross referencing” (you won’t find that in any book, I just made up the label!) So you’re preaching through a passage and a word or phrase triggers your memory of another (perhaps more familiar) passage . . . so you go over there for a moment. Carrying on you find numerous opportunities to go on a safari through the canon. Often there is no scriptural reason for doing so, no awareness of what texts influence which writers, no awareness of specific contexts and meaning, and no genuine purpose for the excursions in respect to the specific purpose of the primary text and the sermon. Memory trigger cross referencing is indeed very easy, all you need is a concordance, or a few favorite passages. Surely we would agree that is lazy preaching? But when should we consider going elsewhere in the Bible? The lines are open . . .