How to Avoid a Preaching Rut

Human Context

I’m not sure it would work the same for everyone, but I often get into a rut because I’m in a pattern in the way that I present information. That can be because many of us are trained to preach in academic settings and so we have an understanding of an academic presentation of material. I need to give you author, date, time, major theological issues, and make sure I define what expiation is.

All that is important; all that is critical. We should not just explain the information in the text but also the burden of the text—that is, why was this written? What was the situation that was going on at that time? In particular, what was the struggle of God’s people in that moment? The Holy Spirit did not just say, Here’s some random information you ought to know, there was something going on that required the writing of that text. We should ask, What is the context of the text?

Faithful Endurance

Collin Hansen, Jeff Robinson Sr.

Written by a team of long-serving pastors, this book explores 11 issues that could threaten to undermine a pastor's ministry, encouraging young pastors to press on in the midst of the unique challenges that come with leading a church.

We all say context is part of the text, but I’m talking about the human context. What was the fallen condition, the rebellion, the fear, the uncertainty, what was the burden of the Holy Spirit in addressing that information to those people at that time? And having identified the burden of the text saying, What was the reason the prophet or the apostle wrote to those people? then we go the next step to say, How are we like them? And that’s moving us from what I think of as our third person messages, Here’s what happened to them in that ancient time. Here’s what Paul did. Or, here’s how they marched around Jericho. Necessary and important is to ask, How are we like them?

The Power and Help of God’s Word

Otherwise, we get in messages that are pretty much, Thomas doubted Jesus. What an awful disciple. He’d been in the seminary of Jesus for three years, he had the testimony of the women, he had the predictions of the prophets, and he still doubted Jesus. Aren’t you glad you’re not like Thomas?

Well, that’s not why Thomas is there. Thomas is in the Bible because we are like Thomas. We share doubt and we think we know all the answers until our child gets leukemia or the people in our church turn on us and we wonder Is any of this real? And that’s when we need to know there was a reason this was in the text. It’s important for that to stay fresh and even preach with a sensitivity that touches our own hearts by saying, How are we like those people to whom the text was written?

It’s important for that to stay fresh and even preach with a sensitivity that touches our own hearts by saying, “How are we like those people to whom the text was written?”

And when we go that far, we’re actually taking the truth of God’s Word to the struggle that God intended to address. And because the struggles of our lives are so vast, complex, and varied, we’ll get out of the rut by thinking situationally rather than just informationally.

How are we like them? How is their struggle our struggle? It’s the variety of the human dilemmas that we face that ultimately will take us out of information factoid sermons into sermons that are dealing with the realities that people are facing every day with the beauty and the power and the help of God’s Word.

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