I recently re-read Bryan Chapell’s ‘Christ Centered Preaching’. Its always good to remind yourself of truths that impact your ministry.
1. Determine the “Big Idea” of the Passage
“When we can crystallize the thought of the passage, then the focus, organization, and application of the message become clear for preacher and listener. Preachers who develop concise and accurate theme statements can speak with much greater detail without loosing the congregation in a fog of specifics.”
In this quote Chapell makes a strong case for ‘unity’ and simplicity in a discourse. Unity not only gives the message a central focus, but focuses the people on the ‘big idea’ of the message. A sermon should communicate one thing. The goal is to ‘melt down’ the ‘big idea’ into one concise statement. It was good to be reminded that “expositors owe no more to explanation than what is necessary to make their points clear but owe no less than what is necessary to prove their points.”
2. The Message is More Important than the Man
“Failing to speak with conviction appropriate to one’s subject and personality about the truths of eternity- to appear to be unmoved or unaffected by the joy of salvation or plight of the lost- actually miscommunicates Scripture’s meaning.”
Chapell makes it clear that the personality preaching comes under subordination to the Spirit, and the Spirit inspired text. There is no room for fleshly fears or pride. I have often struggled with the issue of perceived authenticity, and a fear of seeming ‘plastic’. It was good to hear that “portraying the facts of a passage with energy and sensory details makes the Bible interesting, clear, and real to listeners.” Preaching should aim to see “truth poured through personality” in a way that is honoring to God. This idea echo’s the words of John Piper, “O brothers, do not lie about the value of the gospel by the dullness of your demeanor.”
3. The Importance of a Fallen Condition Focus
“The fallen condition Focus is the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God’s people to glorify and enjoy him.”
Chapell’s model for incorporating a FCF in every sermon allows easier application when crossing the bridge from biblical times to application for today. Chapell argues that we need to ground the sermon in the FCF because all preaching that focus’ on our fallen condition glorifies God in His grace. “Preaching that remains true to this God-glorifying purpose specifies an FCF indicated by a text and addresses this aspect of our fallenness with the grace revealed by the text.” The FCF model also guards against felt needs preaching. It focuses humanity through the lens of a biblical worldview.
4. Biblical Theology is Mandatory for Understanding the Text in its Redemptive Context.
“The entire Bible is Christ-centered because his redemptive work in all of its incarnational, atoning, rising, interceding, and reigning dimensions is the capstone of all of God’s revelation of his dealings with his people. Thus, no aspect of revelation can be thoroughly understood or explained in isolation from some aspect of Christ redeeming work.”
The discipline of biblical theology is one of the many ignored facets of bible teaching in today’s church. Chapell is right when he makes the point that “Christ-centered preaching rightly understood does not seek to discover where Christ is mentioned in every text but to disclose where every text stands in relation to Christ.” Instead of segmenting the textual unit being preached, the preacher should aim to illustrate how each individual text falls in line with God’s overarching redemptive purposes revealed in the entire cannon of scripture.
5. When it comes to Proclamation: Essence over Eloquence in Wording
“State points as concisely as possible. Listeners do not have the opportunity to back up and reread what you just said. Get to the essence of each point and then use subsequent paragraphs of explanation to add proof, nuance, and appropriate qualifications.”
The idea of ‘transferable teaching’ is much needed in some churches. The congregants should be able to walk out of each service with the ‘big idea’ burned into their minds. Concise wording tends to lend the listener to a correct understanding of the message being conveyed.