This is the middle post in a series of three on Big Idea preaching. Specifically, I’ve been struck by how many people recommend Haddon Robinson’s book, yet seem to not have grasped what it teaches. I understand that they are impressed by the well written chapters dealing with various elements of sermon preparation and delivery (I was impressed first time through), but the powerful notion of the Big Idea is not instantly grasped (took me a while!) So yesterday we thought about The Big Idea being about communication. But more than that . . .
The Big Idea is about biblical studies – While Robinson’s teaching is a masterful presentation of communication theory, Robinson is absolutely a Bible man. The Big Idea of a message is not the product of the creativity of the preacher, but a quest for the exegete in the preacher. The Big Idea is not merely the preacher’s own work, but is derived from the work of the preacher to effectively understand the text. As the text is rightly understood, it has an inherent unity that brings coherence to the text and therefore to the sermon on the text. Pursuing the Big Idea is not a flight of fancy into spiritualised or theologised creativity. Rather it is the prayerful work of “historical, grammatical study of a passage in its context.”
Again, the communications thinking comes through. The Bible is communication. So the writers, seeking to communicate, will have written in developed ideas. A unit of thought will have an inherent unity of thought. Sub-ideas will serve big ideas. Ideas will be developed by explanation, or proof, or application. The Big Idea approach to preaching works because it reflects the nature of communication, of which the Bible is a supreme example. Big Idea preaching is by no means an imposition of preaching form on Scripture (plenty of that going around already). Rather, if rightly understood, it is an accurate reflection of the nature of Scripture, allowing for the most effective means of communicating Scripture unhindered by sermonic form and structural expectation or limitation.
Tomorrow I want to offer one more piece in this series of reflections . . . the role of the Spirit.