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engaging the text in preaching – mark keown


In my experience in the church and with fresh students to Laidlaw College, in the main, Christians today are not engaging sufficiently with the text of Scripture. So, I consider one of my primary tasks as a preacher today is to get them to do so; at least for the 20-30 minutes I have opportunity to address them. I have thought a lot about how to do this and am working with a method in many of my sermons which I am finding is yielding positive results.

When I preach now, whether I am preaching topically or expositionally, and usually the latter, I will focus my attention on the passage(s) in mind. This starts with me immersing myself in the text in question. Ideally, this is done in the original language. I use Logos software for all my biblical research, and its tools are amazing (see my previous blog about Logos software here). As I do, I get excited about the text, its underlying story, its message, and how it breaks down. I want to get to the point where all I have to work with is the PowerPoint and know the text so deeply, that I can ad lib on it in the moment, speaking freely and dynamically about the text – my goal, that they get as excited about it as I do.

When it comes to the sermon itself, I know most of the congregation don’t bring a Bible (although more do now with smart phones etc.), and so prior to, or early in the sermon, I read through the passage (or we read together), so they are familiar with it. Sometimes, I will ask them to say what they see in the passage. Then, as I come to the sermon itself, aside from sharing illustrations and background material, the main content of the sermon involves putting the text up in front of them on Powerpoint, highlighting phrases or verses, and expounding it.

So, for example, recently I was preaching on Rom 8:35-39 in a series on hope, and below is a slide exposing part of Rom 8:37. I was able to speak on the great Greek word hypernikaō, “hyper-conquerors” and, while firing a few shots at prosperity teachers, explain what a cool word it is and what it means that we are conquerors in a world, where suffering is real – God is with us and loves us in our travails (you can hear the sermon here).


In taking this approach, I have moved away from clever three-point sermons and overdoing personal or other stories, which are still very important and good, and try to inspire people with the Scriptures themselves and especially the rich feast one can have when engaging with it.

I have found that this approach is yielding a very positive response as hearers are more and more deeply desirous of the word. They are coming under it, and the word is shaping them. I am going to stick with it I think.

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