Preaching is something that lies at the heart of our mission at OCC. Preaching is the proclamation that founds and forms our community – that we are gathered around Jesus. In the body of Christ, it is like the fresh breath of wind that blows through our system, bringing new life and strength for our actions. It can be practical, provocative or reassuring, but no matter what the topic, our preaching is the fresh call of God on the church.
In my experience as a preacher, the most powerful sermons – the ones with the most oxygen, so to speak – are the ones that draw from the Bible first and foremost. Style, format, and personality can change, but we do best when we are lead by Scripture, rather than using Scripture to make a separate point.
This is not just academic. When the church forms a set of opinions and refuses to let the Bible challenge and reshape them, we become one more ideological party seeking dominance in tribal conflict.
We don’t worship the Bible. But the rich picture of God revealed in the Bible is clearer and more trustworthy than the ‘God’ found only in our imaginations. So, our preaching must be biblical.
There is more to be said about how the Bible ‘works’, but right now I just want to explain what I mean by biblical preaching.
- Biblical preaching is exegetical. Exegesis is just a fancy word taken from the Greek which means reading ‘out of the text’. The best definition I’ve read of exegesis is ‘the point of the text is the point of the sermon’. When I was growing up, that meant reading verse by verse and explaining it as you go. But I’ve learned that exegesis doesn’t mean only verse by verse. Sometimes you can miss the point by focusing on every little detail. For example, the gospel of Mark is filled with stories. To go verse by verse might miss the tensions or the turning point in the story. So, exegetical preaching can be, verse by verse’ but it can also be ‘sense by sense’ or ‘story by story’ or ‘big picture’. The point is to find the point and make it!
- Biblical preaching lets the genre shape it. The Bible is not really a book. It’s a library of books – with history, law, advice columns, legends, political arguments, letters, and prophetic books. And preaching through the poetry of the psalms is going to require a different tone to preaching through the moral convictions from Jeremiah and the action-packed stories of the gospel of Mark. The Bible is diverse and our approach should be diverse as well.
- Biblical preaching is shaped by the broader story of the Bible. The Bible has a lot of internal dialogue. Authors quote other authors and sometimes change the meaning or emphasis. Some parts of the Bible re-examine or directly critique other parts. Some books explore the same topic from a different lens. And, as Christians, we see all of Scripture through the revelation of the resurrection of Jesus. As Christians, we are always looking for the life and grace of Christ wherever we can find it in the Scriptures.
Biblical preaching doesn’t mean there is only one point of view. But it keeps us gathered around Jesus.