More Advice From A Fine Preacher

From The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper (p. 45):

One of the biggest problems I have with younger preachers whom I am called on to critique is to get them to quote the parts of the text that support the points they are making. It makes we wonder if they have been taught that you should get the drift of a text and then talk in your own words for thirty minutes. The effect of that kind of preaching is to leave people groping for the Word of God and wondering whether what you said is really in the Bible.

Instead, in the literate Western culture we need to get people to open their Bibles and put their finger on the text. Then we need to quote a piece of our text and explain what it means. Tell them which half of the verse it is in. People lose the whole drift of a message groping for where the pastor's ideas are coming from. Then we should quote another piece of the text and explain what it means. Our explanation will draw in other passages of Scripture. Quote them! Don't say general things like, "As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount." And along the way or at the end we should urge it into their consciences with penetrating application.

This quotation relates to the issue of biblical literacy, something that all of us who preach, teach or study God's Word are certainly concerned about. When we preach a message without much reference to our Bible, to what authority are we pointing our people? Is it our words? Is it some vague sense that what we are saying is in the Bible? Or is it to the Word of God itself?

I use Powerpoint with every sermon. Nothing fancy, because I don't want the medium to distract from the message. My practice is to have people turn to passages of Scripture rather than simply display them (I will show a verse on occasion, but it is not my typical approach). I want them to learn how to use their Bible. Using a Bible means bringing it, of course. If we rely too much on our words, too much on visuals, we make it unnecessary for people to even bring their Bibles with them to church. Maybe that's why the illustration from my post a few days ago is so true - that a good percentage of incoming Christian college freshmen could not identify Acts as the book in which Paul's missionary journeys are found.

The point that I am trying to make is that we need to constantly remember where truth and authority lie. Let's make it necessary for our people to use their Bibles.


Check out Milton Stanley's remarks about preaching, pointing to a couple of good thoughts.


Scott Cheatham said...

Amen and amen Peter. My folks have asked about putting the texts on the screen too but I won't. Just the references is all I'll list. I am with you in that many don't even know how to use their bibles. The mantra that this is offensive and we need to dumb it down so newcomers don't feel out of place is so overrated. If our people are loving and caring like we expect, many will open their bibles and SHARE with others.

As new Christians grow, they learn where the major portions of scripture our. It happens with time. That another reason I can't handle those "tabbed" bibles, because it hinders the learning process.

This is a good series of posts. I wish I had more time to comment on it in my blog...perhaps early next week!


Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for the mention, Peter, and for continuing to focus on the need for solid preaching (and listening to preaching). Peace.

mar13 said...

It's depends on your audience make-up, displaying the text helps seekers to following along...