Giving the Word ProminenceOctober 3, 2007
Preachers should aim to give prominence to the bible. But how do we communicate this high regard in the way we preach? Here are five practical suggestions:
1) Don’t rush the Scripture reading . When the preacher hurries the bible reading but slows down for sermon delivery, the Scriptures can appear to carry lesser importance. Subtle signals can emit to the congregation that our sermon is the ‘main course’ while the bible reading is only a brief ‘appetiser.’ Therefore we show the value of God’s Word when we say: ‘This may take a bit of time but let’s read the whole of this rich chapter together.’
2) Prepare for the Scripture reading. Too many preachers read the sermon well but the Scripture poorly. Brothers, this should not be! To the contrary, we should communicate the value of the bible-reading by preparing for it. For a positive example: twice in recent weeks I’ve witnessed God’s Word honored by hearing difficult passages of Scripture read well. Try reading Jeremiah 37 and 38 out loud without making a single mistake (especially with those tricky names) and you’ll appreciate what my colleagues James and Peter pulled off! However, the fact that they did read the passages correctly, communicated that time and care had been taken over the Scriptures.
3) Remind people it is God’s Word they are reading. Lets not be legalistic about this one; nonetheless, since people easily slip into thinking that the bible is ‘just another book’ or a nice religious treatise, it can be useful to remind them that ‘this is the Word of God.’ In some churches this is always stated, at times with the congregation standing and replying ‘thanks be to God.’ All this can convey the value of the Book of books.
4) Read, if possible, from an actual bible. Not too long ago, my best sermon critic (and lovely wife) picked me up on the fact that I often read passages from my notes, not from my bible. Her comment was that this can send the unintended message that I’m getting things from composed notes and not from the Word of God. I’ve since repented. Its true: the very way we are seen to handle the bible will set an example, for good or ill.
5) Stick to your text and never, never abandon it throughout your sermon. In the absolute sense, the Scripture reading should not end before the sermon begins. Scripture should be read and studied and referenced and questioned and rejoiced in all throughout the message. The sermon should BE the bible unpacked, illustrated and applied. Our preaching should peppered with phrases such as:
‘Don’t take my word for it, look at what Jesus says in verse 15.’
‘See for yourself how Paul develops this point. In verse 5 he explains that…’
‘What does Peter say in verse 26?’
‘Now I want you to notice how Jesus illustrates this teaching in verses 12 to 14. Look at the parable he tells.’