A network of highly cohesive details reveals the truth.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Pearls, Pigs, and Good Exegesis

What does good exegesis look like?

Well, there's a rather significant element of risk in answering that question. It seems that you're either wrong or you don't live up to the model. In spite of that (to my own peril, I suppose) I'm going to take that risk and present a sermon I recently preached. I'll be thankful for any constructive criticism (though I've rather cleverly, if I may say so myself, mitigated some of the risk by preaching on Matthew 7:1-23...you know, the do not judge and do unto others... section :-) )

Now, sermons, obviously, are a result of exegesis, or at least should be. But, I think the result is a good place to start answering the question: what does good exegesis look like? You see, I'm taking a results oriented approach. Good exegesis isn't good exegesis if the end product isn't any good.

I think a good sermon should drive the audience to the text. And, once they arrive at the text, they should hear in the sermon what they see in the text. The sermon should bring the text alive. If the exegesis has been good, then the audience of the sermon should find themselves thinking through the text. They should anticipate the text; they should react to the text. Ideally, a few days later, even weeks later, the people should find themselves reflecting on the text. And this reflection should not be simply thinking about a good sermon illustration, though they are valuable, it should be about the message of the text. The audience should come away thinking the same thoughts that the original author intended the original audience to think. Of course, these thoughts should also be molded to the modern issues and culture; however, the original import should still quite obviously be there.

When I preach, my goal is to disappear. The audience should confront the text and not me. If they confront me, I'm too weak to win, so we both will lose. However, with good exegesis, the text will win.

And so will the audience.

And I'll be very thankful.

So, if you will, take a read through a sermon on Matthew 7:1-23 (PDF format) and tell me whether you think the exegesis was sound. Does this sermon cause Matthew 7:1-23—as a unit—to flow into your heart and soul like it never has before? Whether the sermon does that or not isn't my greatest concern. But, if the exegesis is done well and the sermon is done well, then Matthew 7:1-23 (NIV, NASB) will. And that result is my prayer.


Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi Mike!
I just read your post on Scot McKnight's blog about the gospel. I'm about to preach on what the gospel means, and I would love to see this letter from Tom. Have you blogged about it anywhere? Would you forward some of it? All the best,
Chris (chris@christilling.de)

7:39 AM  

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