Preach the Text, Don’t Just Preach From the Text

It’s a simple statement, but some preachers probably need to ponder it.  With the good motivation of seeking to be pastorally relevant, some preachers short-change the preaching of the text.  It certainly saves time if you merely summarise or refer to the text, but don’t bother with any extended explanation, or any retelling of the narratives, or any extended description to help the listeners enter into the world of the text.  Bypassing these elements does allow you to get to application and relevance.  But what is lost in the process?

People receiving lightweight Bible content that is heavy on application will not mature into the kind of Bible-mature people you probably want them to be.  It trains listeners to look for lessons and applications, but to do so without really entering into the text to any depth.  It may encourage people to try to live out the Christian life, but without drawing them deeper into the source of life – relationship with the persons of the Godhead.  As preachers we have a double-duty, or even a double delight: to enable people to encounter the God of the Bible as they enter into His Word, and to be changed by that encounter.  These two go together.  But don’t short-change the first by skipping to the second.  As the world seems to spin further and further away from the anchors of Biblical truth, people need to be more biblically literate and mature, not less.

5 thoughts on “Preach the Text, Don’t Just Preach From the Text

  1. I’m a youth pastor and I struggle with this constantly. Our students seem to only have a short window of attentiveness before I lose them. I aim for 15-20 minutes when I preach, so I have about 15-20 hours of prep time. The struggle I have is what do I cut out. I usually go lighter on bible background stuff and go a little heavier on engaging them with their world and relevance, but I find that when I do that I get lost since the application is anchored for me in the text itself.

    This post is a good reminder for me that even though our kids have that short window of opportunity, they need to be informed on the biblical world, to see their place in God’s story as well. I’m sure there is a balance between application and explanation. I’ll hopefully get better at it the more I preach and prepare.

  2. People receiving lightweight Bible content that is heavy on application will not mature into the kind of Bible-mature people you probably want them to be.

    Through my experiences in preaching, I found that to be so true! But I am just an associate and not always on the pulpit on sunday.

  3. “People receiving lightweight Bible content that is heavy on application will not mature into the kind of Bible-mature people you probably want them to be. It trains listeners to look for lessons and applications, but to do so without really entering into the text to any depth. ”

    I totally agree, well said. However, as a preacher, I have to say that we also have to translate the text into something that is relevant to the listener, lest they get bored with it because they can’t see how it relates to Christian living – it ends up just informative, not transformative.

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