When you move to a new city it can be very overwhelming. I remember moving to South London back in the days before my phone knew how to get me to my destination. I had a huge book of street maps on the passenger seat and I gradually learned to navigate between key landmarks. I would have loved a tour guide sitting there instead – as long as it was a good tour guide.
I would not have appreciated hearing meticulous details about the front of several houses in an obscure cul-de-sac. “Turn right into Downing Close. Pull over behind the white care. Notice how houses 3, 5, and 7 all have a black gate, but different colour front doors? Isn’t it intriguing to note how number 5 in particular does a good job keeping the side hedge trimmed and the roses look pretty good too?”
That kind of detail, presented with a dull lack of enthusiasm, would have quickly pushed me back to trusting in my book of maps.
What makes a good tour guide? And what has this got to do with preaching?
We live in a time when very few people grow up with a good level of biblical awareness. Consequently our churches have a growing population of people who find themselves lost when they open the pages of the Bible. They need help, and the preacher might be their main “tour guide” to help them get around.
Here are some thoughts to ponder:
1. Preacher Bible Guides should believe that their listeners need to journey in the Bible for themselves during the week – a sermon on a Sunday is not enough Bible for anyone. We must realize how much people need to be in the Word when we aren’t there to preach it to them.
2. A good tour guide knows the big picture and the key landmarks. It is not enough to know your way around a few key streets, you need to know how the whole fits together and what the significant landmarks are. In Bible terms this means you need to know the big story, and understand the key landmarks: can you tell the Bible story by key characters (Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul), or by key covenants (Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic, New), or by key events (creation, exodus, exile, cross, second coming), etc?
3. A good tour guide knows fascinating details that help to make sense of, and add colour to, the big picture. It is important to be able to slow down and help someone see the significance of what is happening in a particular passage of Scripture, but not as a cul-de-sac in isolation. The best tour guides can point to a detail, tell the story, and make the big picture make more sense.
4. A good tour guide knows when to go to a big landmark and when to go to a little detail. The same is true for the preacher. Learn how and when to give a sense of the whole, as well as how and when to make much of a detail. You need to be able to do both, and you need to learn when to do each one.
5. A good tour guide genuinely loves the city. Nothing worse than good knowledge offered dispassionately as if it actually doesn’t matter. A good tour guide will help you fall more and more in love with the city and its story and its people and its charms. How much more is this true for a Bible City Tour Guide?
Believe that your listeners should be discovering more for themselves all week long in Bible city. Know the big picture and key landmarks, as well as the fascinating details that bring the big story to life, and know when to offer big picture or little detail. Love the Bible city and the God revealed there. Put that all together and you are the kind of Bible City Tour Guide that people in our churches are crying out for…