I believe there is something powerful that happens when God’s word is read aloud among the people of God.
Unfortunately there are times preaching is more about personality than it is about the power that comes from the very nature of God’s Word. If a preacher did nothing but get up and read scripture there would be a lot of people who might wonder what the preacher was even being paid to do, after all…can’t we read scripture at home? Now, if they memorized the whole text and said it from memory that might not cause as much buzz because you would know they put a lot of time in on that…but that goes right back to the point. The temptation is to focus in on the preacher and not the power of God’s Word to transform…whether read from the Bible aloud or memorized and spoken or read individually and silently.
Sometimes I wonder if I am not out of balance in my approach. If I assessed my notes that for every minute of scripture reading I probably have 5 minutes or more of me talking. I guess one could make the case that even Peter used this approach and approximately this ratio in his sermon in Acts 2 (the scripture being his quotations of the Old Testament prophesies concerning Jesus). Is it possible we get in the way? Is it possible that pride can enter into this equation, tempting us to think that God’s word is best understood with more time given to explanation and illustration than scripture itself? I wonder if I don’t too often see myself as the lens that people need to understand God’s Word properly and fear letting it stand on its own.
There is a real temptation to think that what God’s Word really needs is more commentary from the preacher and so we get a whole lot of commentary with very little text. That approach is modeled for us in how we study. Take the average commentary on Philemon…through thousands of hours of toiling over 25 verses (500 words in English and 372 words in Greek), commentators are able to come up with 150 pages of material to explain what is being said. That is half a page/word! I am not saying that is bad practice when it comes to writing commentaries…I am wondering if some of that doesn’t rub off into our preaching.
One of the things I find fascinating about Jesus’ preaching was that he wasn’t afraid to let people misunderstand. There were parables he told that he never explained to the crowds. In John 4, Jesus led them to believe he really wanted them to eat his flesh and drink his blood and when they left, he didn’t try to stop them to explain what he was really talking about. We might call that terrible communication but for Jesus, he saw it as weeding out the ones who were hungry enough to keep listening and those who quickly lost interest. I guess we can rationalize that we aren’t Jesus and so we cannot afford to try that approach.
Is it possible that in our attempts to communicate well, that we don’t muddy the water more often than we would like to think? I also wonder if it isn’t probable that, at times, we honestly think that good communication has more power and punch than the inspired Word of God. Let me be really clear here…I am not being critical of anyone unless it is myself…I am more so asking for feedback and thoughts on this.
How do we find balance between finding more ways to have God’s Word read in the assembly and still make sure people understand what they are hearing…without getting in the way?
Anyone else out there wrestle through this?