One of the bigger challenges I have in preaching is text selection. Many good preachers will tell you the way to solve that is by simply preaching a series that goes through books of the Bible. That’s one of the ways that I try to copy good preachers so that I might be mistaken for one.
The good results from preaching through a block of Scripture include, at the least, these things: 1. This helps the congregation and the pastor develop a clear understanding of what is in the Bible, a solid Biblical theology. We find ourselves looking consistently at the text; 2. This keeps the pastor from jumping about, pouncing on whatever he wants to preach; 3. The pastor can preach the hard issues without singling someone out: if this week’s text is naturally the next block in the book, then I’m not singling you out: I’m just preaching what’s right there.
An additional benefit is this: not spending huge amounts of every sermon to cover background matters. The setting, style, and authorship of Biblical passages are important. However, it’s not something that 10-15 minutes of every sermon should be spent on. So, rather than belaboring the point that Moses or Paul or whomever wrote this text, you can hit that hard once and occasionally. The preacher also has to get past his own pet topics, and this is good.
There are minor problems, sometimes. Occasionally, it gets monotonous to stay in the same book for a long time. Right now it’s this: I’m preaching through Genesis. Which is a great book. The foundations of all critical theology are found in Genesis: sin, redemption, God at work in the world after the seventh day (as in: yes, He rested, but no, He didn’t retire). That God both judges sin and graciously delivers from judgment. It’s all there. Even the concept of eventual redemption of all the earth and permanent vanquishing of sin is there.
So, preaching through Genesis is a good thing. This week, though, we’re at Genesis 10. Go ahead, go read it…
This chapter is the opening for the entire field of ethnology, but it’s not very heavy on theology. Essentially, what you have here is where the descendants of the survivors of the Flood ended up. It’s chronologically compacted---this could have taken place over several centuries, you just don’t know. About the only real reference to God in the whole chapter is about Nimrod being “a mighty hunter before the Lord” in Genesis 10:9.
What do you do with that? Some interpreters take Nimrod as being an evil fellow, one who sets up rebellion against God. He gets blamed in some literature as the mastermind of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). Except that there’s no definite Biblical evidence of that. He’s considered the ancestor of the Assyrians, but that’s about it for definite relations. So, how can he be an example of who we ought not be? Just some issues there.
Meanwhile, some of my fellow young-earth creationists try to make more of Genesis 10:25 than I think is there. The days of Peleg, when the earth (ground, land) is divided aren’t going to match up with the break up of the Pangaea super-continent. That event is too far past to connect into the Genesis genealogies. You’re better off to see the existing continental structure as the result of flood run-off, but I digress.
So, in all, this week’s question is: what to preach? All of Scripture is valuable and useful. The goal, the effort is to find what is actually there. It would be terribly easy to add what I want here and preach about something that I want to preach about. However, doing that isn’t preaching. It’s speaking---maybe motivational speaking. Maybe even good speaking.
Yet preaching is something entirely different. Typically, one seeks a speaker that has accomplished what they speak on: success, wealth, overcoming, and so forth. They talk from their perspective, from their expertise. I spend a decent chunk of my learning effort reading and listening to speakers (Scott McKain and Michael Hyatt come to mind first, they’re both quite good) because there’s help there.
A preacher, though, and the sermon do not come solely from expertise and experience. They are not found in seeking someone who has attained and will share how they got there. A sermon comes from someone just as fragile and frail as the person hearing it. The sermon originates in the Word of God. The preacher’s experience and ‘expertise’ (read that as: time spent in focused study) come under the text and cannot supplant what’s actually there.
So, to preach I have to take what is there and present it. Present in a manner that makes sense, is consistent with the text, and doesn’t bore you so badly you can’t stand it. So, back to Genesis 10---and hopefully by next Monday, there will be a sermon podcast to listen to that shows success!