5 Ways to Approach a Difficult Preaching Text
Contextualize. Look at the broader context of the Bible book you are preaching from. What is the culture of the time? What is the background of the writer? What is happening in the world during the time the text was written? Context will help the listener put together the pieces—especially when the teaching seems at odds with modern day conventions.
Analyze. The language of the passage can often be important to understanding it. Go back to the original Greek or Hebrew. What words are loosely interpreted in the English? Is the language itself a barrier to fully understanding the Scripture? How does parsing out each word in the original language broaden your understanding of the verse(s)?
Prioritize. Look at the text in light of its importance in the whole of the passage. Is the text making the key point of the chapter or book, or is it a minor or supporting point instead? If it is a supporting point, how does it support the key text and in what framework? Is the verse of primary importance to the topic? If so, how and why?
Categorize. Identify the text in terms of its type of literature. Is it historical narrative, poetry, a letter or communiqué, prophecy and vision or another form? Each type of text will lead to its proper interpretation. Narrative, for instance, may be taken quite literally, while poetry may contain symbolism and language that is not literal but figurative in order to illustrate a concept.
Harmonize. How does the text fit into the whole story—the grand narrative of Scripture? Context is seeing the forest for the trees. Harmony is seeing the planet for the forests. Be careful not to view the Bible as 66 separate literary works, but as a complete and true story, from beginning to end. How does the passage you are approaching fit into that great story? What is God wanting to communicate about Himself and His plans through it?
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.