Preaching Big Books

BigBook2Perhaps you shy away from preaching series from the bigger books in the Bible?  Maybe it would help to think differently about big book series.  There is more than one way to preach a series from a big book (like a major prophet or Acts):

The one way – the traditional approach would be to start at the beginning and work meticulously through each passage.  It might take a couple of years to get through, but it might be worth it.  God can certainly use a book like Isaiah or Chronicles to shape your church.  At the same time, people may grow slightly disenchanted after a while.  So perhaps you’ve avoided these longer books?

Other approaches:

1. Whole Book, Varied Text Length – Just as the label suggests, you can still preach the whole book, but don’t always preach the same length textual units.  To cover a few verses one week and a few chapters another week can add energy and momentum to a series.

2. Whole Book, Highlight Texts – Again, my labels are giving the game away here, but you can also preach the whole book by offering sample highlights from each section.  Carefully done this can motivate people to read the whole for themselves, which is never a bad by-product of your preaching.

3. Section of Book – God did give us 66 whole books, but I think it is allowed to take a key section and preach it methodically.  Some sections of books are bigger in size and richer in content than other entire books, so why not?  Just remember to keep the section in its larger context as you study and preach.

4. Whole Book in One, Plus Whatever – To start or finish the series, why not preach the book as a whole in some way?  By doing this you give the benefit of the big picture, and also have the freedom to not cover every detail in the rest of the series.

5. Section Overview, then Highlights – Another approach is to give a big picture of a section, followed by a highlight passage in that section.  Then the next two weeks do the next section.  For instance, you could preach an overview of Isaiah 1-12, followed by a week in Isaiah 6 alone.  Then overview Isaiah 13-27, followed by Isaiah 25 alone.  Etc.

There are other approaches too.  Feel free to share any ideas I’ve missed here…

Bible Study Is Not a Hop

I don’t want to oversimplify Bible study, but in most basic terms it involves two steps. The first step is to understand what the author meant by what he wrote back then.  The second step is to then consider the enduring application of that text for us today.  Back then . . . today.  Two steps.  One.  Two.

Bible study is not a hop.  We cannot simply try to understand what the text means for us today.  But this happens all the time.  Last night I was enjoying a Bible study in Isaiah 28-35.  We noticed how easily writers will try to explain the content of the passage in terms of “us.”  The problem with this “melded” approach to understanding a passage is that it flattens and simplifies everything.

You might say that actually simplified is good when it comes to complex books like Isaiah.  Indeed, but not when simplified comes at the cost of understanding what Isaiah was actually writing, and at the cost of enjoying the multi-layered, complex, intricate and beautiful plan of God.  When we look at the way God works out His promises we should be stirred to cry out, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”  There is a richness to the way God works through history.  That richness can be lost so quickly – in the time it takes to change two steps into a hop.

Wherever we are in the Bible, let’s be sure to wrestle with what the author meant back then, followed by the possible applications for us either by enduring theological truth or by extension (interpretation before application).  One … two.  Not a hop.