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Preaching Questions

I’m still kind of a Baby Huey in the pulpit but I am dead set on getting better in studying and understanding Scripture and also communicating it clearly. I now have two sets of questions that I think through in the study of Scripture and in how I simply and clearly communicate that in the Sunday sermon. This is the first Sunday I’m trying these in tandem, but I think they are worth sharing for anyone who wants to be the best preacher God has called you to be.

The first set of questions comes from Mark Driscoll’s book Vintage Church. They are six questions that come after the inductive exegetical work of the sermon has been done and I use the first three questions to help me think concisely about the Scripture passage.

1. What does Scripture say? – The Biblical Question

2. What does the Scripture Mean? – The Theological Question

3. What is my Hook? – The Memorable Question

4. Why do people resist this truth? – The Apologetic Question

5. Why does this matter? – The Missional Question

6. How is Jesus the Hero/Savior? – The Christological Question

I’ve mentioned the first three questions at the beginning, but the last three are the ones that really make a difference in communicating Jesus in preaching. It is incredibly helpful to think about why people might buck at the truth in Scripture because they will. What are the reasons they might buck? If you have done that missiological work of “exegeting the community” then not only will you be able to answer that question but also present a loving, gracious, and firm set of reasons why following Jesus is more important than their objections. I’m glossing over the missional question, but it helps us figure out how to live the Scriptures. Finally, I love figuring out how Jesus is the hero/savior. Jesus is the point of everything. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. That’s it. When we’re able to point to Jesus being the end-all be-all of everything. There isn’t nearly enough of that in the western church today.

The next set of questions comes from Andy Stanley’s podcast on leadership (you’ll have to search that in iTunes). Once I understand what Scripture is saying to us I have to figure out how to communicate the grand truths of the Bible in a clear way that calls the hearer to greater faithfulness.

1. What do they need to know?

2. Why do they need to know it?

3. What do they need to do?

4. What is the vision?

5. What can I do to help them remember?

I’m only going to comment on number 4 because I’ve not used these question to think through my preparation until this week and I think it is going to be a great question to ask the folks who are listening. The question really turns into a statement, “Imagine what the church or our community would look like if we live in the faithful way Jesus is calling us to in this passage.” I’ll amend this post on Sunday afternoon with an illustration of what I’m talking about, but I think this is huge and ties in closely with Driscoll’s missional question.

I don’t know if these will be helpful for you because I don’t even know how it’s going to turn out for me this Sunday, but I do feel like I have a clear, Scriptural message that will glorify Jesus and make sense to those who come to worship Sunday. I pray the Spirit will preach despite of me and that people will become more faithful to Jesus.

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  1. Jon
    May 1, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Just stumbled on to your site, and I’m so glad I did. I’m a relatively new pastor of a Nazarene pastor in Oklahoma City, and I find myself identifying with you on so many levels. Hope to keep in touch.
    Jon

  2. John Meunier
    May 1, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Interesting questions. I bet they help.

    Both Driscoll and Stanley encourage reading the Bible with the intention of distilling out of it “a principle” or some other abstract meaning.

    I find that searching for those often pulls me away from the Bible and into my own set of doctrinal preferences. I end up preaching the principle and trotting out the Bible passage as illustration. It is something I am trying to avoid these days as much as possible.

  3. Matthew Johnson
    May 1, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call Driscoll’s preaching “principle” centered and I haven’t listened to enough of Stanley’s stuff to know but I do know that every inductive method of studying Scripture deals with at least three questions: What does it say? (observation) What does it mean? (interpretation) and What should I do in light of the meaning (application). There are a lot of applications for even short passages. I’m going to be preaching for a long time, so it doesn’t bother me to do what Stanley advocates which is 1 point preaching since I’ll likely preach on this passage again somewhere down the road. I think this is a long way from principle preaching because the point comes naturally out of the text rather than “Here’s the point for positive Christian living and some Bible verses to back it up.”

  4. May 4, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    thanks for this, Matthew. I appreciate Stanley’s perspective in that podcast. If you haven’t read Made to Stick from the Heath bros, do. It is fantastic and applicable in multiple communication contexts, but I’m currently working out some place of overlap between their insights and that podcast from Andy Stanley. And I think I’m with you. Being faithful to the narrative quality of the text and preaching a one point sermon are not antithetical. Besides, as the bros Heath point out, if you try to say three things, you don’t say anything—say one thing.

  5. John Meunier
    May 6, 2009 at 11:27 am

    The Heath & Heath book is good. They offer a lot of good, common sense advice that writers have been teaching for years and years.

    I did not mean to suggest single-point sermons were bad. My problem is more in how the entire enterprise works. Stanley suggests a sermon pattern that starts with my experience, then discusses the needs or questions of the congregation, then explains how the Bible text responds to or solves those problems, then moves on to application.

    My discomfort is that it puts my needs first – not just first in the sermon – but first in the sense that by the time we turn to the story in the Bible the range of questions and issues that the text might raise has already been carefully mapped out. The text has been circumscribed so that it can function as an answer to the problem the preacher puts to it.

    This is my problem, perhaps. But this is what I mean when I talk about reducing the text to a principle or abstract point.

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