I’m going to fess up to one of my bug bears. It really irritates me when a service leader announces that such and such a person is “now going to come and explain the Bible passage.” Please can we get out of the habit of doing this.
First of all, it gets the idea into our church culture that the Bible is all really complicated to understand, that the Bible authors weren’t very good writers and so we need a clever person to come and help it make sense to all us. Secondly, it gives the impression that preaching is essentially an educational activity, that we are in a lecture hall/classroom ready for a lecture with interesting knowledge to absorb.
Now, this isn’t to say that every Bible passage is uniformly easy to understand or that everyone will be able to grasp it to the same degree at the same time. Some Bible passages handle complex subject matter, for example we were recently studying Mark 13 recently which seems to bounce backwards and forwards between speaking about events that happened within the lifetime of Jesus’ followers and events that are still yet to happen. Some Bible passages draw on genres, vocabulary and cultural knowledge that are less familiar to modern ears. For example, even to really grasp what is going on at the Last Supper requires an immersion in Jewish history, beliefs and culture.
However, this does not mean that the writers were unclear in their communication and need a clever person to help them out by explaining what they were trying to say to the congregation. If there are any constraints on our understanding, they arise out of our own frailties and limitations. Secondly, whilst it probably makes sense for a preacher to explain any bits people might struggle with for speed and efficiency, this isn’t ultimately necessary for the preacher. The reality is that most of us could, if we so chose do a little bit of investigation for ourselves. A lot of the clues as to what the harder bits mean are found in the text itself or its surrounding context.
Thirdly, I would push things a little further and say that if someone went home from church and you as a preacher hadn’t explained everything to everyone’s satisfaction, this wouldn’t mean they had failed. It is possible to go home from church still wrestling with the text, still awaiting further light on it and so knowing you are going home with some homework to do. This doesn’t mean the preacher has failed. It simply means that there is more work for you as the hearer still to do. And that may well be a good thing.
Fourthly, I think it distracts from the true job of the preacher. The preacher’s job is to help the congregation hear God’s Word and to apply what God is saying to the congregation (both as corporate body and as individual believers). So, the preacher’s job is to read the text, listening carefully to what it is that God is specifically saying and then to help expose that for the hearers so that God’s Word cuts to the heart bringing change, causing the hearers to respond in faith and worship.
So, when the preacher gets up to speak, can we think of better ways to introduce them?