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Blending Bible Content and Life Application

How to talk to people about themselves

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A church in Dallas invited me to preach on John 14:1-31. That's not an easy passage. It is filled with exegetical questions about death and the Second Coming. How do you explain, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself"? How is Jesus preparing that place? Does Jesus mean we won't go to be with him until he comes back? What about soul sleep? I spent most of my week studying the text and reading the commentaries to answer questions like these.

When I got up to preach, I knew I had done my homework. Though the issues were tough, I had worked through them and was confident I was ready to deliver solid biblical teaching on the assigned passage.

Five minutes into the sermon, though, I realized I was in trouble. The people weren't with me. At the ten-minute mark, people were falling asleep. One man sitting near the front began to snore. Worse, he didn't disturb anyone! No one was listening.

Even today, whenever I talk about that morning, I still get an awful feeling ...

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Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Barry Goza

December 20, 2007  7:52pm

Dr. Robinson hit the nail on the head for me! It it so easy to become enthralled with my own questions regarding a text. When you love the Scriptures, you can easily get caught up in details that may not be the source for the answers your listeners need. It's a perpetual struggle! Learning to listen to my people as I live among them, while I prepare sermons to share with them, is the weekly challenge of this preacher.

Robert Bidwell

December 20, 2007  3:49pm

I like the term talking to people about themselves, for how are we to bring life if we do not meet people where they live.

Charles Gilmore

December 10, 2007  9:16am

The question that helps me bridge this gap between scripture and life application is to ask first, what did this mean to the people who first heard this word. This helps me to be true to the scripture text without reading into it a "pretext" I may be bringing to the scripture. Human need and human nature haven't changed all that much in these many years..

Michael Stern

December 10, 2007  12:00am

Haddon is a remarkable exegete of both Scripture and people- I love his wisdom. I look forward in meeting him on the other side-thanks for reminding me on how to meet my listeners on this side.

Daniel DeVilder

December 07, 2007  12:00am

What I have been thinking lately: sometimes my most well received sermons were the ones geared toward children (meaning less overt theological wrangling and explication). The ones that I wrestled theologically with seemed to have little tread.

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