Effective Explanation: 15 Suggestions, part 2

Yesterday I started this list.  The goal is to avoid explanation of Bible text becoming dull and boring:

6. Do honour the whole text.  It may be tempting to dump half the passage and preach the preachy bit, but often seeing how the whole works actually can add focus to the more obviously powerful section.  There will be times to zero in, but don’t always do so and miss the text as a whole.

7. Do recognize and explain the text in light of its own structure.  This follows on from the previous suggestion.  Help people learn to see the structure in a passage.  If it is a poem, help them spot the stanzas (even if you use the technical term “chunk” instead of stanza or whatever sized unit you have).  In an epistle help them see the logical flow of thought.  Very rarely are texts three equal and parallel points.  Help people spot the textual structure, rather than predictable sermonic structure that you impose on the text.

8. Demonstrate the structure of the passage by means of the connectives and content.  One way to show the structure is to highlight the change of content.  Another way is to point them to the connectives.  “Scan down verses 11-16, notice how he says ‘and also,’ ‘you also,’ ‘again’, ‘and you also’ . . . he is really piling up the blessings here, isn’t he?”

9. Do describe the scene so effectively that people can see it.  Here’s a big one.  Too much explanation is too arms’ length and abstract.  Explanations can feel so dull, but when the narrative or situation (or potential application, but that’s for another time), when the situation is so compellingly described that listeners can actually see it in their hearts . . . they also start to feel it.  This is the power zone of explanation.  Help people with good description and they will thank God for your preaching.

10. Develop a contemporary simile.  “This is like . . .” here we enter into the realm of so-called illustrations.  I prefer to name them what they are.  All illustrations are either explanations, proofs or applications.  If you think the best way to explain the text is to use a contemporary example or simile, go for it.  As long as you know what you are trying to achieve, there is a good chance you will be successful.

Five more tomorrow, but your thoughts are invited at any point.


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