Preaching and the Bible Neighbourhood

Eight years ago we moved to south London.  I well remember the early weeks of driving (pre-GPS) with the 250-page map book open on the passenger seat next to me.  I knew one way to get to the office.  I found a way to get to the grocery store.  I found a different way from the grocery store to the route for the office.  I discovered how to get to our church.  Bit by bit I put the pieces together.

It was completely overwhelming at the start.  How could you ever find your way around a city like this?  Winding roads, town after town swallowed up by the sprawling claws of greater London.  But it wasn’t too long before the map sat on the back seat and I could find my way around without much concentration.

As preachers we need to recognize that our congregation may not be super-familiar with the biblical landscape.  It can feel like a confusing mess of history, geography, long names and absent timelines.  And if we aren’t careful, our preaching can only reinforce that sense.

So what can we do to help?  I’d like to share some thoughts today and in the subsequent days.  Here’s the first one:

1. Repeatedly offer them the critical landmarks.  Depending on where they are at, the landmarks may be as basic as Old Testament versus New Testament, or they might be a bit of specific.  But don’t assume too much.  While many will have a sense of Jesus’ life and ministry being in the Gospels, and then the subsequent action being in Acts, I suspect more than we realize are profoundly foggy on Old Testament landmarks.

Abraham and God’s promises to him – critical marker that people need to know is important.  Where does Moses come (and why does he matter?)  What about David (are these all covenant recipients?)  And what about the exile.  All the prophets relate in some way to the exile, so we can’t let it remain a mystery for folk!  There are other landmarks, but it would be good to make sure people are hearing of the significance of these as a starter.

Tomorrow I’ll go to the second point . . . we need to help people join the dots.

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