Iconic Pieces of Paper
Almost everyone has seen a television show or movie with the iconic scene in which the cut-and-paste note is introduced. It is the note delivered to an individual or family that has different letters that were cut from magazines or newspapers and glued to a separate piece of paper. These most commonly appeared in the moments after the kidnapping of an individual or the theft of one’s possession. This has become so popular that one can download a font called ‘Ransom Fonts’ but even more revealing of how iconic it has become, there are multiple websites that will automatically generate one for you. The words that are cut out from these magazines, newspapers, books, etc. were intended to deliver a specific message to the reader from the author. Though when the individual does this, they are making a letter that conveys a clear message, it actually looks and is pieced together by taking words that were once complete and whole. Thus, they are taking words out of place and used in the wrong context.
Cut and Paste Preaching
When it comes to preaching there has been a practice that has become just as popular that has taken something that is complete and “cutting-and-pasting” it into something that appears to be concise but in all reality is pieced together, the “normal” practice of topical preaching. To be up front, I personally believe that the benefits of regularly preaching verse-by-verse are overwhelmingly greater than that of topical preaching. Realistically though, there is a situation in which an individual cannot preach through a book of the Bible. Some examples are: filling in for another pastor, special events, or when a specific topic needs to be addressed in the church. So, the issue is not topical preaching in and of itself, it is when a preacher chooses to speak on a topic but fails to preach the text used. This is commonly referred to it proof-text preaching or eisegesis.
The heart of the issue is cut-and-paste sermons, not the practice of topical sermons themselves. For topical sermons can be done well if the individual labors over the text used in addressing the topic. The issue with many that preach topical sermons is that in preparing the sermon, they approach God’s word with a topic in mind rather than approaching God’s word and allowing its truths to dictate the topic in which they preach. The preacher must seek to understand what the text meant to the biblical audience, what theological principles are found in the text, how the theological principles connect with the entirety of God’s word, and what are the implications of these theological principles for the individuals in the congregation. When this is not done, the sermon may have a concise point that is being made, but it is just words taken out of context and pieced together.
Commit to Faithful Exegesis
Just like that of the iconic ransom note, in preaching topically without faithfully exegeting the text the preacher is taking parts of a letter, book, or poetry out of its original context. So, brothers, as Paul exhorts Timothy to “commit to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” in 1 Timothy 4:13, I encourage you to faithfully commit to the work of faithful exegetical preaching if it is verse-by-verse through a book or a topical sermon.
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