procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

against introductions: parallels or patronising?

one thing i’ve been really challenged about this last week is the use of illustrations and introductions in sermons.

so today: a quote from Paul Keating (Australian Prime-minister 1991-6) – ‘[your performance] is like being flogged with a wet lettuce’, ‘you’re like a shiver waiting for a spine’, and so on .

the sermon then continues (starts) the pharisees and saduccees need to trap Jesus like an aspiring Paul Keating.

i like it, it’s fun, it seems to be relevant to the passage – but what it says is THE BIBLE IS BORING – so here’s a really interesting story. so when you think pharisees and saduccees, think Paul Keating, and then you’ll find it really interesting.

how do we do introductions that aren’t just trying to ‘make the bible more interesting’? or is that the point of an introduction?

another one – the gripping story of Australia’s America’s Cup win (in 1983), an unlikely victory. But with that really interesting story in your mind, here’s the not quite so interesting story of the Israelites being saved from certain death, with Pharaoh’s army on one side, the Reed sea on the other.

i don’t want to be a party-pooper, but, neither do I want my introductions to make the Bible boring by implication.

whaddya reckon?
(big ups to ae for beginning this thought process - tho not in the blogosphere)

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Anonymous Dave Miers said...

i feel the logical extent of your argument is that we ought not use illustrations.

is that where you'd take it?


12:17 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

hmmm. i think what i want to think more about is not doing illustrations that say "hey look over here (don't get too caught up in the bible as i talk about it in the few minutes left after my riveting introduction)"

in the lecture the other day where this comment was brought up, the lecturer suggested we give illustrations that help people understand the implication (application), rather than the trying to parallel the narrative.

so not saying "here's an interesting story, and it's sort of similar to the bit of the bible we're looking at today", BUT rather saying "here's the situation the Israelites found themselves. how did they feel? have would you feel? how would you react? like this?"

maybe? i don't know. but i want to think more about it.

1:51 pm  
Blogger geoffc said...

Does using illustrations have to imply the bible is boring? Couldn't you say they are helpful for the listener to understand the bible as it speaks of a world that is so far from them.

I once heard a message on the good samaritan where the illustration was imagining 3 pastors and theologians ignoring a homeless drunk who was beaten up in the street because they had to give a lecture/evangelistic talk. a bisexual peadophile comes around and has pity on the man, and helps him.

It's hard for me to imagine how the samaritans were viewed in ancient Israel, so although it has its flaws, I think it was helpful in understanding how hated the Samaritans were. Does that mean the preacher implies the bible is boring?

2:19 pm  
Blogger geoffc said...

I really should reread my comments before posting. I hope it still makes sense.

2:20 pm  
Blogger Honoria said...

"There's gold there in them hills."

God, in his mercy, didn't just leave us a theological manual with list of truths. Instead, he wrote parables, jokes, epistles peppered metaphors, narrative arches, sub-plots, proverbs, prayers, riddles, poetry, songs and dreams. Not to mention irony, chiasms, puns, genealogies, treaties, laws, stories that built on one another, apocalypses, architectural manuals, anti-heroes, anti-climaxes, anti-type scenes and lists of truths.

I got upset when a very prominent preacher reduced a parable's wonderful themes and images down to very generic and *boring* terms that sounded theological but removed people from the natural story. He gutted the story of reality.

I'm with Woody. Fewer catchy introductions and imported illustrations. And more Scripture, please.

His Samuel series were some of the best I've talks I've ever heard. He cooked from scratch without additives from a can.

8:49 pm  
Blogger Honoria said...

Thought of more!

... CVs, oracles, zoomorphic imagery, predictions, speeches, report cards of kings, accounts of battles, festivals, promises and curses.

8:54 pm  
Blogger byron smith said...

I reckon a good introduction ought to raise the question that the passage answers, rather than trying to parallel the passage. I guess this is similar to the point you made above about application. Raise the life issue that the sermon will end up addressing, to help people realise why it will be worth listening.

10:45 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

altho, even as i say all this, it goes against many bones in my body that want to try and meet people where they're at - and i think this is what we should do. but as i say i'm not convinced constant illustrations are the way to do it.

one thing i'll say about JWW is that if you're not in the listening mood, you won't. someone with witty illustrations, a gripping introduction my sinful heart cares about (ie not what God's got to say to me thru the bible), will increase the likelihood of me going the distance with their sermon. if it's the bible that starts, fills out and finishes the talk, am i really gonna keep up the attention for the whole time?

10:48 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

so byron the ex 14 example would then not be 'here's an amazingly unlikely victory' (ie the america's cup), but 'have you been between a rock and a hard place, wondering where God is, whether he's forgotten you?'

is that sort of where you're getting at?

11:02 pm  
Blogger byron smith said...


11:05 pm  
Anonymous Dave Miers said...

i was thinking about this since i posted the comment earlier today...

byron said what i was thinking:

I reckon a good introduction ought to raise the question that the passage answers, rather than trying to parallel the passage.

david cook has some great gear on having the big questions that's answered by the big idea.

with the PK example that doug first mentioned, i think the link was a bit tenuous?

11:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.

1:02 am  

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