A Manual for Preaching
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A Manual for Preaching

The Journey from Text to Sermon

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📖 eBook - ePub

A Manual for Preaching

The Journey from Text to Sermon

About This Book

Abraham Kuruvilla's A Vision for Preaching offered an integrated biblical and theological vision for preaching. A Manual for Preaching addresses the practical (and perennial) issue of how to move from the biblical text to an effective sermon. The author, a well-respected teacher of preachers, shows how to discern the text's theological meaning and let that meaning shape the development of the sermon. Clearly written and illustrated with Old Testament and New Testament examples, the book helps preachers negotiate larger swaths of Scripture and includes two annotated sermon manuscripts from Kuruvilla.

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Getting Ready

Ants shape each other’s behavior by exchanging chemicals. We do it by standing in front of each other, peering into each other’s eyes, waving our hands and emitting strange sounds from our mouths. Human-to-human communication is a true wonder of the world. We do it unconsciously every day. And it reaches its most intense form on the public stage.1
Yes, belonging to the family Hominidae puts our interpersonal communication on a different plane from that engaged in by members of the family Formicidae. But for us who are children of God, the form of communication we call preaching is located in an even more unique dimension and is different from every other kind of public speech, formal or informal: it is the parade event wherein the word of God is exposited by a shepherd of God for the people of God to conform them into the image of the Son of God by the power of the Spirit of God for the glory of God. An incomparable and momentous occasion, indeed! And for us who have chosen the vocation of preaching, this form of communication is critically important: we are handling Scripture to facilitate listeners’ conformation to Christlikeness.2 Preaching is a crucial responsibility, and one fraught with dignity and distinction. It is undoubtedly a noble task: preachers speak, “as it were, the words of God” (1 Pet. 4:11).3 Those in Ephesus who “labor in the word and in teaching,” Paul declares, are “worthy of double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17); the task of an elder—one who was also required to be “able to teach” (3:2)—was commended as “a good work” (3:1). By fulfilling the preaching duty allotted to him, Timothy is reminded that he would be “a good servant of Christ Jesus” (4:6). So as Colossians 1:28 declares, “We proclaim him, instructing all people and teaching all people with all wisdom, that we may present all people mature in Christ.” God is glorified as his people thus manifest his holiness (Christlikeness) and represent him to the world, “filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11).4 What a privilege it is to partner with God in the execution of his grand plan to consummate all things in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:9–10)!5
Let me address a few important matters before we begin our journey from text to sermon.
Edification versus Evangelism
Preaching is for those already in relationship with God.6 There is an important corollary to this assertion that preachers must bear in mind.
Because the goal of preaching is to conform humankind to the image of Christ, and because the first step of such conformation is the placing of one’s trust in Christ as one’s only God and Savior, the proclamation of the good news of salvation has also generally been considered preaching. But in the Bible, evangelistic proclamation is never a formal exposition of a specific biblical text that contextually interprets the authorial thrust/force in that pericope7 and that draws out relevant application from that particular text. Rather, evangelistic proclamation deals with the announcement to nonbelievers of an accomplished act—the atoning work of Christ. Thus the text in evangelistic proclamation plays only a supportive role in such proclamation: it simply serves as a springboard to raise an existential angst, to validate the veracity of the resurrection, to depict the benefits of a relationship with God, to delineate the negative consequences of not being in such a relationship, and so on. The core message of evangelistic proclamation is identical in every iteration: Jesus Christ, God incarnate, died and rose again, paying the full, final price for the sins of humanity. Application in these proclamations also remains the same, no matter what the text used, no matter who the audience is: Trust Jesus Christ as your only God and Savior!8 Of course, the audience for evangelistic proclamations is exclusively unbelievers.
Edifying preaching, on the other hand, involves the exposition of a particular biblical pericope, with the text playing the major role, all else being subordinate. The sermon discerns the text’s thrust/force (i.e., the theology of that particular pericope), making the message of such preaching unique in every sermonic event.9 The derived application is also specific for the theology of that text; besides, such application is tailored for a particular audience. The audience, which is being conformed to the image of Christ, comprises those already in relationship with God (i.e., believers).
In light of these differences in text use, message thrust, application specificity, and audience identity, it is best to distinguish evangelistic proclamation and edifying preaching. For the rest of this work, such a distinction will be maintained, and our focus will be exclusively on preaching—the pericope-specific, believer-edifying species of Christian communication.
I contend that there is no hermeneutical constraint arising from every text of Scripture to mention the gospel of salvation in every sermon.10 However, there is a pragmatic constraint to do so, for one does not know if every listener in one’s audience is saved. Therefore, even though the sermon is primarily for the people of God, the gospel should be presented in every worship service, though there is no imperative that such a proclamation be confined to the sermon. It is far more appropriate and prudent to think in terms of presenting the good news somewhere in the worship service (not necessarily in the sermon), by someone (not necessarily by the preacher), somehow (not necessarily in any set format). Discussing the inclusion of this critical element of worship with your team is helpful—be creative.
Choosing a Text: Book and Pericope
Now that you have decided to preach, the first item on the agenda is the selection of a text to preach from. Again, let’s assume you are in this for the long run. In that case, my strong recommendation is that you “read continuously” (i.e., lectio continua), going from pericope to pericope in a given book, respecting the trajectory of its author’s thought and the progression of his ideas. This I shall simply refer to as “preaching,” without any qualifying adjectives like textual, topical, expository, and so on.11 Such preaching alone gives listeners the sense of what the author is doing in each pericope and how these doings are sequenced and linked together in a given book to further the author’s theological agenda for life change unto Christlikeness.12
Even when you preach lectio continua, you’ll need to figure out which book of the Bible to tackle.13 This will be contingent on your audience. Where are they in their spiritual walk? Are there any particular issues of concern or problems within the flock you are shepherding? Are you reorienting the momentum of the group and the trajectory of its life growth in a new direction? If so, you might consider whether a particular book of the Bible meets the need or situation of your listeners. This is perhaps the only time in lectio continua preaching that the need of the audience comes before the choice of a text (here, book). But once a book is picked, let its A/author have his way with the audience. As we shall see later, the needs of audiences should still be considered, but only after the theology of the text has been discerned. Other considerations for choice of books might be your preaching calendar: What book have you just finished preaching through? What season in the church calendar are you going to be preaching in? And so on.14
For the rest of this work, I’ll assume that you plan to preach through a book, or a sizable portion thereof, week by week. And for illustration purposes, let’s also assume that you want to preach through the Letter to the Ephesians or the Jacob Story in Genesis 25:19–36:43; these will be the main texts we’ll handle in this work. With you poring over my shoulder, I’ll work out the theologies of several of the pericopes of Ephesians and the Jacob Story.15 That will give you a sense of what a “pearl necklace” looks like, one from the Old Testament (a narrative) and one from the New Testament (an epistle), the pericopal “pearls” of which were deliberately chosen and carefully strung together by the A/author into the “necklace.”
A word about pericopes before we go any further. Though pericope technically refers to a portion of, or a scene in, the Gospel narratives, I use it here to designate a preaching text, irrespective of genre or size—a practical definition. In my conception, a pericope’s boundaries are constrained by the preacher’s need to create discrete sequential sermons from contiguous passages. So a pericope is a portion of text from which one can preach a sermon that is distinct in theological thrust/force and application from sermons preached from adjacent pericopes. As an analogy, take the spectrum of visible light, with wavelengths from 400 nm to 700 nm, violet to red. How many different reds are there in the spectrum? And how many can we distinguish? I, being somewhat opaque in these matters, can discern light red, medium red, and dark red. You, however, may find cherry, rose, merlot, crimson, ruby, brick, blood, blush, scarlet, and so on. In the same way, the slicing of your pericopes may differ from mine. You might be able to discern distinct theological thrusts/forces between pericopes divided minutely and finely and be capable of deriving equally distinct applications therefrom. I, on the other hand, might need larger slices of text to be able to discern such theological and applicational differences between my adjacent pericopes. But the fact is that too fine a dic...

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APA 6 Citation
[author missing]. (2019). A Manual for Preaching ([edition unavailable]). Baker Publishing Group. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2051219/a-manual-for-preaching-the-journey-from-text-to-sermon-pdf (Original work published 2019)
Chicago Citation
[author missing]. (2019) 2019. A Manual for Preaching. [Edition unavailable]. Baker Publishing Group. https://www.perlego.com/book/2051219/a-manual-for-preaching-the-journey-from-text-to-sermon-pdf.
Harvard Citation
[author missing] (2019) A Manual for Preaching. [edition unavailable]. Baker Publishing Group. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2051219/a-manual-for-preaching-the-journey-from-text-to-sermon-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
[author missing]. A Manual for Preaching. [edition unavailable]. Baker Publishing Group, 2019. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.