Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Best Part of Sermon Preparation

This coming Sunday, I'm preaching on Matthew 15:1-9:
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" — then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
In my opinion, the best part of sermon preparation is wrestling with what the author is saying. I'm referring to the process of trying to figure out what the author, in this case Matthew, meant when he wrote this.

I found the above text to be extremely difficult today. I wrestled with it for several hours. I had to take a few breaks in between. I feel worn out mentally, but I think (humbly, I hope) that I have finally figured it out.

I'm not suggesting that biblical interpretation is some sort of game or that the writers were trying to hide the meaning from us. Rather, God has given us a beautiful book that He expects us to think about and ponder.

Preaching the sermon is enjoyable, but wrestling with the text is even better.

This process is so enjoyable that I wish everyone in our church family would do it, too. In fact, I would be thrilled if, before we gathered together, everyone in our church read through the text, pondered it, and tried to figure out the author's meaning. I would also like to hear from other people what they think the author's main idea is.

I, as pastor, by no means speak ex cathedra. I make mistakes; I'll freely admit it. I even make mistakes in the pulpit. Therefore, I'd like to hear what others think about the preaching passage.

We would all gain by wrestling with biblical passages. If you don't know the original languages, don't fret it. Read several English translations.

It would serve the church tremendously if we all studied the text and then all shared with one another what we think it means. What a great blessing that would be to us as individuals and as church families.


Joe Blackmon said...

This process is so enjoyable that I wish everyone in our church family would do it, too.

As they say in my neck of the woods, "True dat". I suspect you do this as well, but one of my goals when I was preaching is to teach people how to study the Bible. I wanted them to know that "You can do this too, ya know". It's so nice to hear someone else say it.

Eric said...


Thanks for the comment. I agree that we need to be helping our people - equipping them in fact. Oh how wonderful it would be to have everyone involved in studying the passage. Well, small steps.

Scott Reeder said...

Brother Eric,
I agree doing biblical exegesis is the absolute highlight of my week. Dr. Danny Akin taught me such much in this area. I still remember him saying that our job as students and preachers of the scripture is to do the hard work of determining the "one meaning of the text that the Holy Spirit will to convey through the author", and then using culturally appropriate applications and illustrations to make it relevant to the congregations we lead. I still pray that each week before I preach a passage.

Brother Scott ><>

Eric said...


I agree. Dr. Akin was, as usual, on the money. I just wish more people would experience this same thrill and joy be digging into the text themselves. I guess we'll have to encourage them in this.

Alan Knox said...


I don't want to sound like a broken record, but the more people take part in teaching and encouraging one another the more they will study Scripture on their own. The more they begin to rely on one person for their teaching, the less they will study on their own. (In general of course... there are always exceptions.)


Eric said...


I agree. The difficult part is moving in that direction. I think we are making progress, but paradigm shifting is a long process.

Bob West said...

God has greatly gifted you
I enjoyed visiting your blog
God Bless;


Eric said...

Thanks Bob!

It is nice to be able to write down a few thoughts here and there. I'm glad a few people find it encouraging.


You have a very interesting blog
God bless you and your family

Eric said...


Thanks! Blogs are a blessing - yours included.

Aussie John said...


It excites me to read a pastor writing what you have.

I was astounded to visit a famous northern USA church, and to find that the folk I spoke with had no personal thoughts about what they were taught. Their response to this question, "What do you think the passage says?", was, without exception, "Pastor .... says.....".

During my many years in pastoral ministry, my regular habit used to be to say to the congregation, "Carefully listen to what I say, but, you are fools if you believe what I say without studying for yourselves".

Eric said...


Thanks for commenting.

It's amazing how many Christians don't seem to really want to be part of the priesthood of all believers. Instead, they act as if they want their pastor(s) to be a priest.

We all have responsibility to learn and teach. I know I want to learn from others.