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driven, focused and centred – reuben munn


This year has solidified for me three simple but central convictions about preaching. I’ve carried these convictions around for a while, and they have been said many times by many people, but they have become more clearly and firmly pressed on my heart in the course of preaching through Exodus this year. For me, good preaching is three things:

  1. Text-driven

There is a real discipline to allowing the text to set the agenda for the shape, flow and content of the sermon. Even though I’m committed to this in principle, I find it a constant temptation to pull the text this way or that, depending on where I want to go (or want the congregation to go!). It’s hard to truly submit to the text as a preacher, to give it—and thereby the Spirit—real authority over the preparation of the message. I’d rather use the text to preach the latest book I’ve read, or an issue that I think is pertinent to the church. But the extent of my willingness to submit to the biblical text is a reflection of my trust in the providence of Christ to speak through Scripture.

  1. Metanarrative-focussed.

While being driven by the text, I also want as much as possible to connect that text to the entire biblical narrative. I want to explore how this text fits into the overall story of Scripture, stretching from creation (and before, in the eternal life of the trinity) through to new creation. But that doesn’t mean using the text as a springboard into other passages. I think sometimes preachers assume that’s what it means to preach the big story of Scripture—fit as many biblical passages as possible into one sermon. This is where we have to hold this conviction in one hand and the conviction to be text-driven in the other. Our message must still be thoroughly grounded in the given text, but carefully place that text in the context of Scripture as a whole. This often requires a zoom-in-zoom-out approach, where we shift between a focus on the text itself and a broader focus on thematic connections to other parts of Scripture.

  1. Christ-centred.

The importance of Christ-centrality in preaching was hammered home to me by Tim Keller’s latest book, Preaching. He says, “Every time you expound a biblical text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can. That means we must preach Christ from every text.” I’ve found it particularly fruitful this year exploring the various ways that the Exodus story points to Christ. For example, in my message on the plagues of Egypt I talked about how the plagues symbolically pictured God undoing creation, pushing the world back toward darkness and chaos. This was ultimately fulfilled at the cross when Jesus took the ultimate plague of God’s judgement upon himself and this was accompanied by darkness coming over all the land (as per the ninth plague—creation undone again). This not only deepens our picture of Christ, it helps our hearers see the depth and richness of the Old Testament as a shadow of what was to come. No matter what our text, our sermon is not finished until we have preached Christ!

These three convictions are guiding beacons for me as I prepare each message. I pray they will increasingly define and shape my preaching in the years to come. What are the central convictions you have about what constitutes good preaching?


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