Thursday, 25 September 2008

Answer the right questions

I preached on Sunday night at a friend's church, and was approached afterwards by a woman who wished to talk about my sermon, and sermons in general. I had just preached on Joshua 14 (Caleb's request to receive his inheritance), and had had as an additional reading Numbers 13. Her concern was that I didn't address who the Nephilim were (Num 13:33). My answer to her was that it wasn't in my passage, it was a contested point amongst scholars, and that spending time discussing a detail which didn't add anything to the meaning of the passage (the point being that the 10 spies were scared of the big guys who lived in the land) wouldn't have been helpful to people.

Her suggestion back was that people don't come to church because we don't make the Bible interesting. People want to hear, it was suggested to me, about the Nephilim. About the interesting things in the Bible. About the details. Those are the questions people have, and the don't come to church because those questions aren't answered.

Don't get me wrong, she was a Christian woman who loves Jesus and wants to see people come to salvation. But at this point I think she is mistaken, although she is not alone. Of course we make our sermons interesting. And of course we deal with the details of the text (when those details actually add to the point of the text). But we do that so that we might answer the questions that the Bible poses, not the questions that people bring with them. For the questions that the Bible poses are the big questions. They're questions which most people, at some time in their lives, ask of themselves. Why am I here. What happens when I die. What's the point. But because they don't have the answers, people don't often admit that they ask those questions. They relegate them to the back-blocks of their minds. Our job is to show how God answers those questions. Interestingly. Through the details. But from the whole counsel of Scripture.

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