Skip to main content

Teach The Bible, or Preach The Christ?

This captures a challenge I'm currently facing...
Michael Jensen: "I was speaking with a prominent English conservative evangelical not so long ago, and we were talking about preaching. He had a gripe: the phrase 'bible teaching' has crept into the evangelical vocabulary to describe what used to be called 'preaching'. A church is great, we will say, because 'the bible teaching is excellent'. But, he said, the vocab change is significant: it represents a shift to a more cognitive, flat and explanatory style of discourse. The hearers will not be exhorted or edified so much as 'taught'. What's more, and perhaps more seriously, we talk less of preaching Christ, but of teaching the Bible. A subtle but significant difference perhaps?" (ht: Stephen Murray)
I'm looking for someone to come and speak at a student leaders weekend in Spring 2009. What I want is someone who will thrill us and engage our hearts by preaching Christ from the scriptures. What I fear is only being able to get someone who will teach the Bible.


  1. Am thrilled to see this topic addressed Dave - I have long felt that there are many folks being taught to be good Bible teachers, but few being taught to be good Bible preachers. Glad to see the difference is being addressed - in the NZ Baptist Times last week, the topic was also addressed. For me, that is the strength of guys like Alistair Begg & Liam Goligher, who are not just Bible teachers, but preachers also.

  2. Not sure it's massively being addressed, identified yes. And I hope there are people starting to work out the difference and train differently.

    It's one of the things I love about Piper really, and why I think his best book is The Supremacy of God in Preaching because it teaches how to preach not just how to teach.

    The short-term challenge is where am I going find a preacher!!

  3. Got me thinking from the far side of the world too. This whole thing needs further development and thinking, particularly challenging the argument which I keep hearing that preaching/teaching is not a biblical distinction. I think it may be because I am not sure there is any "teaching" in the NT (particularly in sermon form) that is not exhortative etc.

  4. Have you come across this article by Peter Sanlon?

  5. Daniel, yes - Pete is helpful.

    And Adrian - yeah I remember Jackman and yet felt that that week at EMA Piper was the only one who actually preached..

    "...he had been convicted by just this - preaching had lost its power, though the exegesis was all clear and good. He declared that we needed to address this new problem we had created. I agree. Yet, little seems to have changed in evangelicalism."

    That's such a telling observation..

  6. Can I sound a slightly different note... that all is not as bad as seems to be thought here, speaking as a non-preaching/teaching layman.

    I think there is a tendency to think that the sermon is where it all happens and that it has to change people then and there in radical ways because frankly they are not going to get changed any other way. Preachers can tend to think that they have just 30min-1hr a week to change their congregation and to exalt Christ to in their church. This is obviously not true. What could be described as bare bible teaching has given me the resources to live the Christian life, preach to myself, and worship my maker throughout the rest of my week. While often pure high-octane preaching has purely provided an brief but exhilarating revelation of Christ which provides me with nothing to carry over into my daily life. We obviously need to find a balance between feeding the fish and giving them the tools to feed themselves, lifting up Christ all the time.

    The SW has a abundance of great preachers... don't despair I'm sure you'll find someone.

  7. Dave K, feel free to email me your recommendations. SW is still relatively new territory to me.

  8. Excellent distinction. This is the subject that burns in my heart. Here's a list of posts I have written on Christ-Centered Cross-Focused Worship... from a layman's perspective.

  9. I keep returning to the David and Goliath story when I think of preaching - Are we battle weary drill sergeants briefing the troops from the King's manual, or are we joyful heralds of the King's victory?

  10. "Are we battle weary drill sergeants briefing the troops from the King's manual, or are we joyful heralds of the King's victory?"

    Glen, that's a brilliant clarification of the issue. Thank you.

  11. Comment by Derek Bish: (cos my Dad has wise words on this)

    My thought would be that that you can't really define Bible teaching as good if it isn't about Jesus, Salvation and God's Grace regardless how "interesting" it is. Who wants to be interested by Jesus...I want (and I want others) to indeed be thrilled and engaged by Him!

  12. I liked this, also by Glen. I'm sure he's not the only guy around who's given this some thought- but I enjoyed this lots:

  13. Dave Bish said

    "My thought would be that that you can't really define Bible teaching as good if it isn't about Jesus, Salvation and God's Grace regardless how "interesting" it is. Who wants to be interested by Jesus...I want (and I want others) to indeed be thrilled and engaged by Him!"

    I just want to say... Amen!!

  14. This is a really useful discussion.

    Another aspect is that I am increasingly concerned with a generation of popular speakers who seems to read a couple of verses from anywhere, then give a 20 minute "life coaching" seminar which pretty well boils to to faith being the power of positive thinking for changing lives.

    It all sounds good and the delivery is engaging - but under the veneer of presentation and exhortation is really is a load of froth and we never get to the Latte below.

    We definitely need more bible preaching - where the truth is honoured by explaining it at the point the rubber hits the road in our lives - not just the cerebral process of information gathering.

    Jesus always ends up being the key figure in such preaching - because where the rubber hits the road in our lives is where it is either about him or it's not, so the preaching has an engagement and a relevance aside from any presentation skills because people daily have to make the choice of how they are going to follow Jesus today.

  15. thrill you?
    you want a thrill?

    fall in Love with Jesus!

    Jesus will engage heart,


    and mind.

    you do it!

    fall in Love

    tell them of the Love of Jesus.

    that is
    the biggest thrill of life!

    now what do you fear?

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. I found this blog on stumbleupon, and maybe I don't understand the issue or am viewing this out of context. While Christ is central to the Bible, without the history and the old testament law(and even the origin of sin and death in Genesis), I find its impossible to understand the context of why Christ had to die for our sin, much less appreciate its value. Perhaps the idea should be "sometimes teaching is required, sometimes preaching is required" - seeing as most preaching is based on what they have been taught. In the example I gave, preaching Christ's ministry, death, and resurrection can give a spiritual high which is often temporary if never taught the context from the OT of why Christ had to die. I fear that its people who never go beyond such shallow understanding, who walk away from the faith.

  18. Garron - yes, we need the OT background. I guess the argument is that when we do it we do it so that we can preach the Christ.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

"Big eyes full of wonder"

Books. Fiction. Libraries. Second only to churches as are the best gateways in your community to ultimate reality and new possibilities.

Our local library has just re-opened after refurbishment, and I love that our boys have spent several mornings there during the summer holidays, discovering some wonderful new stories.

I realised a few months back that I wasn't reading enough fiction. My work necessitates reading a lot of non-fiction, a mix of historical and contemporary thinking, biblical studies and theology. But fiction is the cinderella. Easily overlooked, and yet able to awaken my imagination and show me the way things are meant to be.

So I've picked up a few more lately - bought and borrowed. Not every book attempted flies, and that's ok. These have been winners though.

Ink. This is Alice Broadway's debut novel. It's young adult fiction and tells the story of Leora who lives in a world where the events of your life are tattooed on your skin. Nothing gets hid…

Uniquely Matthew

Reading gospel accounts in parallel is sometimes used to blur the differences in perspective between the evangelists, seeking to harmonise the texts and find a definitive historical account of what happened. No such thing exists because every account is biased and limited. You simply can't record everything. You have to hold a vantage point. And that's not a problem.

Matthew, Mark and Luke take a very different vantage point to John who was of course an eyewitness himself of the events. Comparing the text of Matthew, Mark and Luke across the death and resurrection of Jesus yields two steps.

Firstly, the common ground. All three accounts tell of...
Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross…. · Jesus labelled as King of the Jews…. · Criminals crucified with Jesus… · Darkness in the daytime… · Jesus' loud final cry… The women who witnessed Jesus death, and Jesus' burial… · The tomb lent to Jesus by Joseph of Arimithea… · The women who went to the tomb on the morning of the…

Songs we're singing in Church

Christians are a singing people, it's part of what we do when we gather.

Our church meets morning an evening on a Sunday - normally using 5 songs in each service. So, over the year that's about 520 song-slots available. The report from the database system we use ( tells us that in the past year we've sung about 150 different songs.

Our current most used song has been sung 11 times in the last year, just under once a month. Our top 10 are used about every 6 weeks. By #30 we're talking about songs used every two months. The tail is long and includes loads of classic hymns from across the centuries, plus other songs from the past 40 years, that we have used around once a term or less.

1. Rejoice - Dustin Kensrue

2. Come Praise & Glorify - Bob Kauflin

3. Man of Sorrows - Hillsong

4. Cornerstone - Hillsong

Rejoice was a song I didn't previously know, along with a couple of others that have quickly become firm favourites for me: Chri…