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2 Tim 4:2
Yes, this is from the Angel Court… It is just that… [/sigh…]
Ok, so I am really not trying to mock. But why does it seem one of the most important books on the desk sounds something like Powerpont for Dunmies? And maybe, problems with the video projecton equipment, or with that streamed internet video is a show-stopper or serious problem? Or maybe we fret over the wording of the outline until the last minute? And imagine the time spent just trying to come up with main points that sound good together? Maybe we spend hours on the internet trying to find that perfect, emotionally gripping illustration, or maybe a few of them. And this whole process turns into a tedious chore called managing information? Something seems really wrong with an awful lot of modern preaching. And I will quickly dismiss with abject disgust, preachers who are only feeding themselves, their own ego, when they stand up in front of the flock and open their mouth…
The New Testament uses two different words that are commonly translated “preach” in it’s various English forms. The important thing is how each Greek word is used.
a. Euangelizo — This word is used to emphasize the content, the “good news” (amazing news) that Messiah Jesus died for our sins, so we can be reconciled to Yahweh God, and live forever. The verb form of this word approximates the phrase “good news-ize”. I like that!
b. Kerusso — This word means to proclaim, to shout out, and is used to emphasize the manner with which the message is communicated. This word, as used in the New Testament means to proclaim, or to herald. Paul actually uses the noun form to call himself a herald, a proclaimer in 2 Timothy 1:11.
[Both concepts are used in the same verse / passage often, highlighting this difference, Col. 1:23 for example.]
Our focus will be on Kerusso, mainly because the manner of communicating the truth of scripture is what we want to focus on, and that is what this word does, that is how this word is used. Jesus is a good resource, and in Matthew 12, Jesus is reprimanding cities that should have known better. Still, part of v. 41 reads:
“…because they repented at the preaching of Jonah…” (NASB)
a. The word used here for “preaching” is kerugma, proclamation, from Kerusso, to proclaim.
b. What was that proclamation? “Yet 40 days, and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4, NASB)
God says this. Bam. Jonah didn’t need to be a part of this whole process, and he wasn’t. The Ninevites needed to know that God was talking to them, what God was saying to them. They could take it or leave it. But Jonah preached, proclaimed just what God told him. God Himself was the One who was speaking. Jonah simply proclaimed that. Jonah didn’t try to sweeten, ease or simplify. Jonah (finally) said what God told him to say. Jonah proclaimed the message God gave him. Then Jonah got out of the way, out of town, even if God’s grace surprised Jonah!
I already hear you thinking. “The New Testamant is not about bam! We need to reach out to unbelievers!” The second phrase is true. But the first phrase… It would be easier to agree with this mushy sentiment if the New Testament writers didn’t use Kerusso or other related forms of the verb frequently. But they do. You can check that out yourself.
“Jesus died for your sins.” That phrase, all of it; it is true, it is truth, right? Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “preach the word”; he used Kerusso! What about us? When WE “preach the word”, are we proclaiming God’s truth or not? Another way to ask this question is: As we present God’s truth, are we getting in God’s way? Are we trying to help Him out? Are we trying to make His truths more palatable, easier to accept, maybe more ‘seeker sensitive’? (Yahweh God, I’m sorry, but we need to tone this down a bit…) As we preach, are we proclaiming God’s word, God’s truth or not?
I can easily answer that question for you by directly asking you, the preacher, one simple question.
Are you presenting the results of an accurate exegesis of the selected verse(s)?
Presenting the results of a careful exegesis is the only way to present to your hearers what God said, what He even now is saying.
a. Guess what? If you do this, if you present that careful exegesis to your audience… They won’t say, they can’t say “I don’t like his style…” or “I didn’t buy his examples…” or “his arrangement was all wrong…” or “his thoughts didn’t flow well…” or “well, he didn’t keep my attention…” If we put ourselves, our amazing intellect and an internet full of resources BETWEEN God’s word and our audience, they will see us, and can easily reject out of hand what they heard, everything they heard. If you exegete the passage carefully, present, proclaim the truth that God’s word is STILL saying… Bam… God still speaks. Your audience can take it or leave it because you only presented what God has said. Doing careful exegesis, presenting your careful exegesis, THAT allows you to get out of the way, THAT allows God to speak directly to each one in your audience. Their response to God’s message is between God and each one. You did your homework, you carefully exegeted the passage, then got out of the way. Now, let God work in hearts like only He can do. And by the way, careful exegesis is hard work. That is what they pay you for maybe?
b. If you can’t do exegesis… Wow… Why are you even trying to stand before God’s people and speak to them for God? This may sound harsh, but a lot of (broadly) evangelical pulpits are filled with demi-ergos, little workers who simply pass along what the mother-church has told them. The mother-church won’t teach you to do exegesis (usually); they will claim to have done it for you, and they may not want you messing around with that! And, in reality, an awful lot of “church growth” research is nothing more than warmed over group psychology, performed in Jesus’ name, because it has been found that this produces rapidly growing ‘groups’ (…churches…). Or maybe you never learned exegesis, and so you find what you can on the internet and hope for the best? I have a heart, and so many churches across America, especially small churches, are hurting for Pastors. But they need Pastors who can actually feed them from the still, sweet water of God’s word! That takes exegesis. Worse yet, absolutely worse yet, is the thundering orator in Christian clothing who has the gift of quickly bonding, emotionally moving his audience. Wow, that sure feels good! But if it is not exegesis, you are in the way brother. You might be really good with words, but that is NOT the point. The WHOLE point is getting OUT of the way, OUT of the equation so God can speak to the people from HIS word. And calmly, humbly presenting careful exegesis is how we get out of the way. Smooth rhetoric is a liability for that process.
This is NOT to say that careful applications, carefully applying God’s word is not important, not helpful. Jesus did that! Even more importantly, is that the Pastor speaking to his (His) flock, that should be a profoundly dynamic and spiritually interactive process! If you jump into your message, slog through everything just like you prepared, then pray at the end, all WITHOUT letting God stop you if He wants, so He can address a specific need out there that you had no clue… The applications are absolutely essential, yet absolutely need to be dramatically interactive! Yes, let God throw in applications to you, for you! Prepare in advance to allow God to help you out with this part!
But the applications need to be suggested after, and in a different process than the exegesis, the explanation, the proclamation of the passage. The “authority of Scripture” that is communicated as the result of a careful exegesis, that process needs to be done first. The end result of that is (hopefully) your people will know what God has said, is still saying in that verse(s). Their response is between them and God. After that is complete, and the Truth of God is carefully proclaimed, then you can work through some applications, and allow God to guide your caring Pastor’s heart into meeting the needs of the people in the pews or chairs as they reflect on that Truth. You don’t want to undermine the truth you just proclaimed, of course. But you can help your people put it into practice.
This discussion suggests an overall approach to preaching that goes something like this. The short version is Read, Pray, Explain, Apply.
a. Read the passage together, out loud (standing up perhaps).
b. Pray for God’s help in both proclaiming God’s word (you) and accepting it (them).
c. Carefully exegete the verse(s)
— briefly discuss context (surrounding verses/thoughts)
— if significant, mention the overall structure of the verse(s)
— work carefully through the language details (focus on understanding)
— synthesize the main point
— demonstrate systemmatic agreement with the rest of Scripture
— proclaim the truth from the verse(s)
— (maybe) add a personal disclaimer, gently remind people that God wrote this, not you
d. Work through a few applications, and be ready for God to suggest even more at this point! (He knows your audience better than you do.)
e. Pray at end to close. We all will need that!
This is really scary, and again, I feel for a lot of Pastors, especially with smaller flocks. You may agree with all of this, but you realize that your people… They won’t like the truth, and rather prefer keeping things calm and easy. And they pay your salary. I can’t suggest anything else besides praying, pleading for God to do something. Regardless what they want, the Truth is what they need. And if they really don’t want that… I am not recommending a bomb-shell change; or am I? Each Pastor should ALREADY be honestly standing in prayer between God and His people. Ask God for some insight, and be ready to do what He says. But, if you can, give this a try. I think God can handle it. And, if you can add Greek, Hebrew and especially Exegesis to your toolbox; you should jump at that!
The truth will set you free.
The truth will set your people free, too. Don’t hide it from them.
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(Think I remember seeing that on the back of a sign somewhere…)