Looking at the “Insignificant” Parts of the Text

People expect preachers to read, understand, and preach from the text of scripture. In some of our ecclesial and ethnic traditions we are expected to powerfully “tell the story” as we have heard and understood it in the text. This is a call to preach both the unfamiliar as well as the familiar stories. You know the stories that we have heard on many occasions.

Preaching familiar stories, provide a benefit to both the preacher and the people. The people already know the story that you are seeking to proclaim. In addition, the preacher does not have to go looking in obscure sections of the Bible for something to preach. In addition as Bishop Rudolh Mckissick wrotes: it will “increase [the people’s] comfort as they listen to you.”

The New Spin

But if we are to preach familiar stories, we must listen to Mckissick and attempt to “give the ‘old text’ a ‘new spin.'” That is not to say, make up something, but find something dormant in the text that needs unearthing.

Eugene Lowry, in the book The Homiletical Plot writes about how to find this “new spin.” Lowry suggests that preachers “Attend to every ‘insignificant’ line.” He is telling preachers that when they preach the familiar stories, don’t immediately jump towards the features of the text that you have heard preached repeatedly. Instead, go to those aspects that might otherwise be considered “insignificant.” Look at the text very closely. Look at every word. Often the preacher can discover an important sermon from looking more closely at the text.

I must repeat that I am not talking about pulling words out of context and building a sermon based on that misunderstanding of the text. I am talking about looking deeply at the text and finding aspects of the text that have not been explored as much.

“Insignificant” Details Make Significant Points

Lowry gives the example of Nicodemus coming to Jesus “by night.” I admit that I have heard preachers build sermons on this feature of the text, but it does serve to demonstrate that small features of the text that might otherwise be considered insignificant can be very important and even guide a sermon.

Great preaching is not merely reading for surface, but it includes looking deeply at even those aspects that seem insignificant. If the Bible writer chose to put it in the narrative, then it is truly worthy of exploration.

My fellow preachers. It is in the details where we find very important features that can strengthen our sermons immensely. Look at these details in your attempt to give that “new spin” to an “old text.”

Comments

comments

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

Posted in blog, Homiletic Theory, Scripture Selection
7 comments on “Looking at the “Insignificant” Parts of the Text
  1. scott says:

    Hello; I think that is a very good point, I also think today that preachers should also preach on the whole gospel and not just love. JESUS preached on Hell more than he did HEAVEN. I think that people dont want to hear about the concequence of sin they just want to hear about Heaven, Church people that is, but the people in this world that need to know JESUS as their SAVIOUR need desperetley to hear the whole truth. Conviction brings repentance and repentance brings ya to salvation. I just thought that I needed to post that, sorry if it’s kinda off the subject. May GOD THE FATHER BLESS EACH AND EVERY ONE THAT READS THIS. Have a GREAT DAY.

  2. I totally agree, looking beyond the surface of the text definitely bring out new insight. If we are careful a lot of the commonly preached scriptures are not the correct interpretation. I thank God for Soul preaching.com.

  3. Kim says:

    I appreciate your site. It helps me to develop in so many aspects.

  4. Minister Samuel Andrews says:

    Greetings Bro. Cox
    A very significant point you made, holds true to every line and precept “we must experience the text by engaging our senses”. this my brothers and sisters will ultimately make our sermons “Christ Centered”. Seeing Christ is not an option, it is essential.
    Example: We all often heard the story of David and Goliath, with the implications that we too can defeat the giants in own own lives. The problem with this type of preaching is that it leads the audience to believe that it is something that “we can do”, which points to us as opposed to Christ. The sermon should always point to Christ and His finished work on the Cross John 19:30. The victory in David’s life was a foreshadow of Christ and how He alone have already defeated the giants of life,He has already overcome the world, death, hell and the grave. No matter what we attempt to preach, if we don’t preach the finished work of Christ….the significant will remain insignificant and people will walk away with no means of cofidence or application. The word of God is to tranform lives thru application and not just story telling…..finding Christ and what He has already done, will accomplish the will of God in all our lives..because that is what truth does in application. When we understand what Christ did, who he did it for and how it relates to current events…we move our people from milk to meat and position Christ to be fully effective in our lives.

  5. That’New Spin’ should include taking the Scriptural text as it is stated and then as preachers expound on its meaning and then relate its meaning into our World and Society today. I agree, that people are looking for how the Biblical scripture apply to them personally with their existing life problems, circumstances and or present living conditions. Plus, we as Christians and preachers have to remember that Christ death as a sacrifice bought us closer to have that intimate relationship with our Father as it was intended from that very ‘beginning’..Genesis. I believe that as preachers we have to feed the flock based on what their Christ-ian development can hold..feed milk and watch growth.hopefully.

  6. Kristin Patrick says:

    This is a very good article because it is so true how many preachers mention the parts of a text that is familiar. I also believe that the insignifant parts can provide knew dimensions or revelations to not only the preacher but the people listing. The fine details make any story interesting especially when we get to talking about the great miracles that Jesus was able to perform. How old he was when he began His ministry. Toward the end you mention how in the details we can find very important features that can strengthen our sermons immensely. This is an awesome preaching tip!

  7. Evang. P. Bacon says:

    This has been so helpful to me and I am so excited that the Lord allowed me to come across this and I can’t seem to break away from it. I will be using this on a regularly basis. The article was so helpful. We as Preachers should always just preach the word of God and allow God to do the rest. But your website is a valuable tool to have that will help to furnish important information related to the word and to feed us bread from heaven. Its so important to have a sermon well put together that will pierce the hearts of all mankind and point them to Jesus… his death, burial & ressurection.

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