Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Many Pastors Struggle with Narrative Texts

Many American pastors struggle with narrative texts in scripture. The reason is quite simple. Most pastors have a tendency in the current day to isolate texts. The failure to use scripture to interpret scripture makes narrative preaching quite difficult.

You see texts in scripture can never be seen in isolation. It is somewhat easier to faithfully isolate a piece of Paul's writing, but still the preacher's sermon is poorer for it.

The modernist revolution hit biblical interpretation in a hard way even amongst conservative circles. There is a scientific method of interpreting scripture even in most conservative seminaries that tends to be overly rational and apply principles to interpretation which are too rigid.

I once heard a pastor remark on Paul's exegesis of an Old Testament text that any student in a seminary who did such exegesis would receive a failing grade. He was of course correct, but you see it simply means that principles which are too rigid have been brought into modern interpretation.

Each text in modern interpretation (even conservative interpretation) is seen in isolation. Rather we need to not isolate texts as they are. Often I feel the tendency of pastors is to preach on far too few verses.

Not only is the text in isolation but the text is one verse. To get better preaching it seems necessary that texts cannot be isolated from the entirety of the Bible and it seems that preaching may often be helped by taking large chunks to preach form.

Finally pastors will be better served to not pre-determine the format of their sermon. A three point sermon used by many pastors pre-determines in a sense what the text will say. It is not a rational approach to fit the word of God into a pre-determined mold.

Maybe in the text God has made only one point and maybe God has made seven points in the text. Many sermons would be greatly helped by at least at times moving away from a pre-determined format.

Of course it takes time to consider a text in a way that someone might vary their delivery of it. Of course you see that time is never wasted. Even if the format is kept, the openness to the text is important. The less presuppositions we bring to a text of what it will say and how it will flow, the more likely we will understand a text.
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