We have thought about the preacher as a video painter, and as a gallery guide. Here’s the third in my list:
A Quirky Detective – When you are preaching epistles it may be helpful to think of yourself as a quirky detective. You might be thinking that quirky is a strange qualifier to add, but hang in there, I have a paragraph to come up with a justification for that bit. Epistles are powerful. They offer a unique presentation of gospel truth and application of theology to a specific situation. When an epistle does its work, it can really work in the heart and mind of a listener. So what is the preacher to do? Are we supposed to ignore the contextual features and offer sterilized theological argumentation using a blend of biblical and theologically loaded terminology? Or are we supposed to hold out the epistle in all its uniqueness, helping listeners to see how the letter was designed to change lives then, and consequently, watch them feel the force of it now? A good preacher of epistles ignites the imagination, clarifies the thinking of the writer, demonstrates its compelling relevance to today, and allows the text to do what the text was inspired and designed to do. A detective holds up something as apparently insignificant as a piece of mail and shows how it unlocks and clarifies a real life (and death) situation. And since people might expect an epistle to be just another boring letter, it probably doesn’t hurt to be a bit quirky too (all the best TV detectives are a little bit unique!) There is more to preaching epistle than that, but there shouldn’t be less.
As before, feel free to add your own metaphors in the comments and I might develop some (giving credit).
Last time we looked at the preacher as a video painter, particularly when preaching biblical narratives. Let’s add another metaphor that will not become a classic, but may be helpful for now:
A Gallery Guide – When you are preaching biblical poetry it may be helpful to think of yourself as a guide in an art gallery. You might be thinking that you don’t enjoy art galleries so perhaps you should skip this point, but hang in there. Poetry is powerful. Through stirring imagery and crafted structure, listeners are moved in a way that prose could never achieve. When biblical poetry does its work, it can really work in the heart and mind of a listener. So what is the preacher to do? Are we supposed to strip out those poetic features and coldly present the results of our analysis of an ancient poem? Or are we supposed to preach that poem in words that help the listeners to appreciate the depth of feeling and thought that was stirring in the artist’s heart and life as he wrote the poem? A good preacher of poetry does for listeners what a gallery guide might do for me: lead me beyond first impressions, cause me to slow down and start to feel with the artist as he or she begins to plumb the depths of the piece before me. When the preacher does that, he allows the text to do what the text was inspired and designed to do. There is more to preaching poetry than that, but there shouldn’t be less.
Next time we will add one more metaphor. Feel free to make up your own in the comments … I might even develop it as a post (giving you credit, of course).
Perhaps you have read Between Two Worlds by John Stott? It is a classic textbook for preachers. In it, Stott lists the biblical metaphors for a preacher: a herald, a seed sower, etc. Then he reverently adds his own – the preacher as a bridge-builder. Well, this is not a classic textbook, this is a blog post. And I am not John Stott. So I am going to offer several only marginally helpful metaphors for the preacher. They are probably helpful as far as they go, and it is also helpful to not go too far!
A Video Painter – When you are preaching biblical narrative it may be helpful to think of yourself as a video painter. You might be thinking these metaphors are only marginally helpful because this is not a real thing, but hang in there. Narratives are powerful. They grip listeners with the tension of a plot. They stir identification and association with the reality of the characters. When a narrative does its work, it can really work in the heart and mind of a listener. So what is the preacher to do? Are we supposed to strip out those narrative features and perform an autopsy on a dissected and dead story? Or are we supposed to preach that story in words that paint moving pictures on the internal video screen of our listeners’ imaginations? A good preacher of narrative ignites the imagination, paints pictures that move, and allows the text to do what the text was inspired and designed to do. There is more to preaching narrative than that, but there shouldn’t be less.
Next time we will add another!