Facing a Phrase Unneeded

When I listen to others preach, there are a handful of phrases that always stir a little reaction inside me.  One is, “of course we all know…” or variants.  “I’m sure you know the story of…” or “To quote a verse you probably have memorised…” or similar.

Why do people say this?  I think it is about a sort of humility.  It is a shorthand way of saying, “I know many of you have been Christians for many years and I am nervous, if I am honest, that I am not bringing anything new to the church today, so since my message is the same old same old, I’m going to pre-empt your critique that it was all the same old stuff by acknowledging that as I preach…”  That would be cumbersome, so “As we all know…” it is, then.  Hang on.  Perhaps that family of phrases is unhelpful.

What if somebody doesn’t know it?  We live in an age of increasing biblical illiteracy.  People in our churches do not know their Bibles, generally speaking, as church goers may have done a generation or three ago.  Giving the impression that everyone in the church knows something can be very unhelpful for the individual who doesn’t know that (uncomfortable to be the odd one out, even if actually there are many in the same boat, they will all feel alone at this moment)!  Which leads on to a second point…

What if somebody is visiting?  Chances are, an outsider is already feeling like an alien who has unknowingly landed on a different planet as they try to figure out the customs and culture of this thing called church.  Don’t add to it by making them feel stupid because they don’t know what “we all know.”  But there’s another reason I’d like to throw in here too:

Is the Bible really same old same old?  Absolutely not!  If you think it is, don’t preach it, please.  The ancient documents collected together that we call the Bible is more fresh and alive and new and relevant and powerful and engaging and poignant and stirring that today’s newspaper headlines.  We preach it and we preach it and we preach it again because it isn’t old news.  It is fresh and relevant and more for today than anything else any of us could come up with.  So preach with enthusiasm and excitement, not just for the visitor who may well have never heard it before, but for the most tired looking saint of the decades who needs to feel the force of the freshness of the Word anew right now!

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