Can You Support It?

One privilege of preaching is the privilege of study.  But not everything you discover in your private moments poring over the sacred text should be shared from the pulpit.  Some things may be an exegetical cul-de-sac that you pursued but led to an apparent dead end.  Other things may be genuine insights from the passage and its context, but are still better left unshared.  For instance, perhaps you discern an apparently symbolic or spiritualized understanding of some aspect of the preaching passage.  Should this be presented to a mixed congregation at various levels of biblical understanding?  Here are three questions to ponder before deciding to go ahead and share your insight:

Will your explanation be enough?  We all know the challenge of trying to explain intricate study, perhaps in the original language, to people seeing the text for almost the first time.  If our explanation appears inadequate, we run the risk of undermining our credibility or the logical cohesion of the message.

Do you feel the need to resort to cheap argumentation?  For instance, “If you were to read this book through once a week for 25 years, then you would begin to see that . . .”  This kind of throw-away remark in a sermon can cut deeply into the listeners.  Is the preacher unable to communicate the point now, so the listener is assured they would see it if they studied more?  (Incidentally, I was wondering whether the speaker who said this had read through the book in question 1300 times in the last quarter century!)

Will people copying your methodology get into trouble?  If the insight is somehow symbolic or spiritualized, do we want others copying the method?  Let’s say the insight is genuine.  What would happen if the listeners copy the method and start assigning non-obvious meanings to elements in their Bible readings?

There are times when an exegetical insight, even a genuine one, is better left in the study (or the classroom).  As preachers, we shoulder a significant responsibility for our listeners.  Let’s be sure to consider what is best for them, rather than what looks good for us.

One thought on “Can You Support It?

  1. I appreciate this post tremendously, because I have been the in the pew on many occasions when that which was “discovered” was presented in a sermon. It can become very discouraging.

    When I study I usually write these things down in my notes and will continue to study them out, but refrain from presenting them in a sermon. The only way that I have found to do this is in a teaching setting; not in preaching it.

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