Preaching a Passage Owned

Preachers preach a Bible passage from a variety of stances or approaches.  I see something of a continuum here and would love to encourage all preachers to move further down the list.

1. Preaching from thoughts prompted by the passage. In preparation the text is read, then the preacher preaches based on thoughts triggered by elements in the text.  It could be a certain word.  It could be a character mentioned.  It could really be anything.  Why do people do this?  Because they have not been taught a better way, and because it has a sort of pseudo-spirituality about it as an approach (since perhaps God is highlighting unique elements to make this a unique experience of the text).

2. Preaching about a subject in the passage. The preacher latches on to a subject mentioned in a text and addresses that subject, perhaps using other texts for support, perhaps just sharing their own perspective on that subject.

3. Preaching about the subject in the passage. A single unit of Scripture (a epistle’s paragraph, an individual narrative or parable, a psalm, a proverb, etc.) has a specific subject.  It is united by it’s dealing with something in particular.  Preaching about that something in particular is a great step forward and honours the text, the author and the Inspirer of that text.

4. Preaching about the passage. The preacher is focused on the text, has studied it and preaches about it.  There is a focus on the passage.  The details are explained, the flow is clarified, the message is applied.  This is decent preaching.

5. Preaching the passage. The difference between this and the previous one is a matter of distance.  Preaching about the passage can be accurate and relevant, and yet still feel a bit “arms length.”  The passage is like an exhibit being presented.  If every church achieved level 4 consistently I believe the church would be so much healthier.  But there is also level 5 in this continuum.  If level 4 says what the text says, then level 5 is about doing what the text does.  Somehow the preacher isn’t merely presenting an exhibit, but has so grasped the passage and been so gripped by it, that the preaching is no longer “arms length” – it is direct, personal, clear, alive, to us.  There must still be historical explanation, looking at the passage, applying the message of the passage, but now it is the preaching of a passage owned, a passage that has saturated the heart and mind and life and preparation of the preacher.

Where are you on this continuum?  How about moving one step further?


3 thoughts on “Preaching a Passage Owned

  1. Hi Peter,

    Just found your blog about a month ago, and it has quickly become one of my favorites. I am helped by your challenges.

    Could you explain more on the difference between 3 and 4? Are you using the word “passage” as a synonym for “text”? Or does “passage” refer to the surrounding context?


  2. ‘Somehow the preacher isn’t merely presenting an exhibit, but has so grasped the passage and been so gripped by it, that the preaching is no longer “arms length” – it is direct, personal, clear, alive, to us.’

    I believe congregations today can sense easily a preacher who preaches from the heart or from the head.

  3. Thanks Gary. Unnecessary change of terminology. Since I’m not writing a complex thriller, I don’t need to dangle subtle hints of key plot developments . . . so I fixed it.

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