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the information age – andrew butcher

Information age

How much of what we preach should we be informing people? How much should we be inspiring them? How much comfort should we offer? How often should we challenge?

Increasingly I am of the view that information is a good place to start. There will be some in the congregation who imbibed Scripture and the Baptist Hymn Book with their mother’s milk. But there will be many others, quite possibly more, who won’t know why there are four gospels, who Paul is, why Nehemiah had to build a wall or why Joshua had to march around one to bring it down.

And beginning with the basics means coming into a preacher’s task of illuminating the Word of God by the help of the Spirit through the front door. Tempted as we might be to dive straight into the theological point or the practical application, our listeners may miss the point if we don’t show them why it’s important.

Perhaps as preachers our starting point should be “assume nothing”. That may mean we are telling people what they already know, but it may also mean that we are introducing people to Scripture and how to read it (what does Matthew 5:1 mean unless you already understand the 5 represents the chapter and 1 the verse?) It may mean we’re taking people on a tour of first-century Palestine and the life of those who fished on Galilee as much as we’re then drawing a line between that and 21st century New Zealand.

And we do all of this at a time of countless distractions, where information comes at us from every direction and often through the small device we hold in our hand. It might be that we, as preachers, have to cut through the clutter and the noise that is generated by this overload of information. We need to give attention to what the Spirit is saying to the church, which requires us to be still and listen. And to do so we should start with Scripture, we should guide people through it, we should equip people with the tools to best understand it, we should pray as we read it, and we should proclaim as we begin: “Behold, the word of God”.

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