Monday, August 15, 2011

Preachers: Say the Obvious

There is no point in the passage of Scripture that is too simple for God's people to hear.

There are many times that I come to a passage and in terms of points or applications I find myself thinking: "Well that's pretty basic." So I find myself thinking: "well should I draw attention to this point."

Let me give an example. You are preaching through 1 Corinthians 15 and you come to the word resurrection. The world resurrection conveys to concept of bodily resurrection--a coming back to life but also being granted indestructible life of the 'new creation.' Should the preacher point out the obvious: resurrection is bodily in the Biblical worldview. Long time Christians will find that basic, but a newer Christian may not have thought specifically about the nature of the resurrection and how it is distinct from "spiritual resurrections" we find in cults and other religions.

Other times one encounters applications of the text that are plain, simple and basic. They are the things one should know in Christianity 101. The temptation as a pastor can be to bypass the simple in an attempt to impress people. We can get thinking: "well my application should be deeper than that."

I'm not denying we should plum the depths of Scripture and try go as deep as the text takes us. But the temptation can be for a pastor to feel like he has to prove his worth by coming back with things that are really deep or really "spiritual". 

Don't miss the plainness of the text.

Sometimes in preaching your sermon says things that everybody should already know precisely because everybody should know them.

If things are much to plain to say--make sure you say them. If they are "common sense" say them because sometimes common sense isn't all that common. 

That is not to say I (or other preachers) are genius and people in the pews are dumb. Not at all. Sometimes people in the pew could run circles around the pastor/preacher in terms of their practical Christian experience or knowledge of God's Word. But God still edifies his people by the simple truths they hear.

Other times, because a pastor has training and hopefully is not a new Christian, we can take for granted what is "obvious." It may be obvious to us because we've soaked in the text: make sure you say the obvious.

One final example, a while back I preached a sermon that was not part of a regular series. I said some things that I thought were basic and simple. At points I felt like some of my instructions from God's Word ('this is how you do this') were sort of obvious common sense things. They were part of the text, but I remember specifically feeling like "there wasn't anything really profound in that message" (and shame on me for looking to be profound). Several weeks later someone commented to my wife on the impact that sermon had.

This is not to pat myself on the back, quite the opposite. Don't be afraid to say the simple and obvious things when you find them in the Word of God.

God uses the obvious because he designs his word to be clear. Pastors: we need to make sure that we say things that are "obvious" precisely because that's what God wants his people to hear. Don't neglect deep teaching--but don't look for deepness by the measure of human wisdom. Don't neglect the diversity of your congregation and realize that what might be "plain" to you, is precisely what you need to say.

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"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...