Reflections on Great Bible Teaching – Part 1

Last week I was at a conference, enjoying it both as a participant and as a presenter.  I was particularly struck by the main Bible teaching.  I have been pondering what made it so effective and will offer my reflections in three posts.  I know the speaker is not a limelight seeker, so I won’t name him, but I trust these reflections will be provocative for us.

Observation 1 – Masterful Handling of the Text

In four messages we were taken through the entire book of Daniel.  Not the easiest book to preach, nor the least controversial.  How was the text handled so effectively in the course of four one-hour presentations?

A. The speaker was sensitive to both the literary and historical context of the book.  He knew his Babylonian and subsequent world empire history and demonstrated a keen awareness of the various disciplines needed for pulling together the complexity of Daniel.

B. He was deeply aware of the literary structure of the book.  Layer upon layer of structure was masterfully woven together as the book was presented, leaving the listeners struck by the artistry of the writer.

C. He showed a remarkable ability to summarise the content of multiple chapters without losing the essence or the core intent of the passages.  The teaching had integrity, even when a chapter was surveyed only briefly.

D. The speaker was as bold as a lion, yet as winsome as a lamb.  In a mixed crowd of people from multiple denominations and disciplines, it would be tempting to try to please everyone with a sort of neutered presentation.  Not here.  There was a stunning level of courage in this presentation.  He knew that many would disagree on various levels, yet he was unashamed in his presentation of the book. I think this kind of courage required both a genuine winsomeness and an authoritative mastery of the book’s contents.

I was challenged by the obvious passion for the Word that showed in this series of talks.  But there was more to it than that, tomorrow I’ll look at the issue of targeted applications…

The Bible, Expository & Consecutive Preaching – Part 2

Daniel Goepfrich wrote a substantial interaction with this blog over on his site – here – this post is specifically addressing this sentence in paragraph 8:

Most of the Scriptures were not written as sermons or messages to be taught straight through. Sure, some of the letters in the New Testament are designed that way and a few books in the Old Testament, but the majority of the Bible is not.

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Whether or not the books of the Bible were written as sermons or messages to be taught straight through seems to be slightly besides the point.  NT letters, for instance, weren’t designed to be taught through, but were written to be read through in one sitting.  In a pre-literate world where orality was central, believers would almost always be hearers not readers, and capable of hearing and retaining in a way that we don’t need to be today. I would suggest that none of the Bible books were “designed” to be preached either straight through (one chunk at a time) or dipped into (topical selectivity).

One issue to consider, though, is that there is a unity and cohesion to each of the Bible books.  They are not random (with the possible exception of parts of Proverbs), but deliberately ordered.  I would suggest that historical books are anything but randomly ordered narratives.  The gospel writers and the OT narrative writers were theologians, as well as the writing prophets, who based their ordering neither on strict chronology as we might expect, nor on random order of recollection, as you later suggest, but on their theological goal in writing.  Recognizing the structuring of books does not require consecutive preaching (and many consecutive preachers are painfully unaware of the connections between their preaching sections).  However, whether we choose to preach through a book or topically, my concern either way is that the preacher should strive to understand the authorial intent in any given passage.  Understanding a passage in its written context is critical in achieving that understanding.

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I will continue my response tomorrow.