Makin’ A List


I’ve been attending church services for over 30 years. Here’s a list of the books of the Bible – and a few front-burner topics I’ve never heard preached in any substantive way. Some of them might surprise you:

Leviticus
Numbers
1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles
Psalms
Job
Ecclesiastes
Lamentations
Obadiah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
Hebrews
Jude
Turning The Other Cheek
The Dignity Of Work
Birth Control
Living As Exiles
Balancing Theologies of Suffering and Healing

Here are a few books and topics I’ve heard preached a number of times. In some cases, too many:  
Genesis
Joshua
Ruth
Ezra-Nehemiah
Esther
Proverbs
Matthew 
Mark
Luke 
John
Acts
Romans
1-2 Corinthians
1 John
James
Revelation
Finances
Church Organization
Spiritual Gifts
Small Groups
Helping Others
How To Get Saved
Finances
Finances

I’ve heard lots of stuff that fits between both extremes, of course. But today, I’m thinking about the poles entitled “Too Much” and “Never”. Whether its a Big Box church with a reliance on felt-needs message series, a House Church where the teaching tends to be driven by whatever doctrinal or relational hot buttons the group is feeling, or a lectionary-based congregation walking through the church year proclaiming the gospel (a great thing) – there are some yawning gaps for all of us. 
This past fall, the seminary chapel services at TIU featured a message series on the book of Amos. Though the quality varied wildly (to put it mildly) because different profs each took a section of the book, it was the first time I’d ever heard the book preached in 30 years of following Christ. 
So it got me thinking about the stuff I’ve heard over and over again (and how repetition doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder) – and the things I’ve never heard. It isn’t about novelty – but I do wonder if we’re inbibing a balanced diet when we’re together, gathered. 
What about you? What books/topics have you heard again and again? What books or topics have you never heard addressed in church? 
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9 thoughts on “Makin’ A List”

  1. Not an excuse but my first thought when I see you list is that it seems that preaching the prophetic books also involves teaching how to understand them. Narrative of didactic is pretty self explanatory so it’s a lot easier to get to the heart of the message without too much extra stuff. I suppose that what scares us off from preaching those books.

    The other side of that coin is that I think most of us are more Biblically illiterate (especially with respect to the OT) than we’d like to admit. We wont preach them because we only have a light grasp on them ourselves and we sure don’t want to look like we don’t know what we’re talking about.

    On a different note Phillip Ryken is in the middle of a series on Ecclesiastes that I’ve really enjoyed listening to online (http://www.tenth.org/index.php?id=58). Check it out!

  2. A lesser challenge with preaching the prophetic books is fighting the temptation to turn the messages into history lessons or word studies.

    But they’re worth the work, especially if they simply present Jesus to a congregation. They’re amazingly timely, and serve to call us to repentance and holiness in a decaying culture in a different way than a didactic text does. Aw, come on, Pastor Nygren…you can do it! 🙂

    As a side note – Dr. Ryken spoke this fall to the TEDS chapel crowd. (Not about Amos, however, or Ecclesiastes.)

  3. I hesitate to post this, but one message that I hear preached over and over again is “The importance and supremity of the Word of God [i.e., the Bible].” An important message, sure, but it bothers me that sometimes I could come away from a service believing that the Christian life is just about reading the Bible, that every problem in life comes from not reading the Bible more, that a relationship with God comes ONLY through reading the Bible more and more… I think about this a lot, trying to figure out if I’m a heretic or if there are times that Christians actually DO focus on the Bible more than on God himself, or whether this tension is all in my own head…

  4. I totally agree with you! I appreciated Jack Deere’s tongue-in-cheek assessment of the “bibliodolatry” rampant in the fundy/evangelical world several years ago when he wrote about the functional trinity of Father-Son-Holy Scriptures in his book “Surprised By The Power Of The Spirit”. If we’re evangelicals, then those who know a lot of stuff about the Bible are supposed to be our models and heroes…even if they model a cold, clinical relationship with the living God.

    Both the charismatic (the healthy ones, anyway) and the sacramental streams of the church model a different way of relating to God that moves beyond the head: intimacy, ecstasy, brokenness and devotion borne out of relationship with God Himself. This is the life with Him I long for. I can not allow the information I’ve collected about the Bible and theology to define my relationship with God.

    Though the semantics can get a bit dicey as you try to define what the difference is between loving God Himself and loving God’s Word, this is more than merely an academic question. We’re living in uncertain times. Allegiance to the Bible in place of allegiance to it’s Author may not carry us the distance.

    I once heard a speaker from the House of Prayer in Kansas City say, “A lover will do what a worker won’t.” What he meant was that when times get hard, and trials come, the people on the clock punch out. They’ve become merely employees. Those who are lovers of God will go through anything to honor Him, be with Him. You are right and wise to be able to see that there is a difference between God’s Word and God Himself.

    There is a reason you are at the church you’re at, and asking the questions you’re asking, even as you head into the home stretch of your education.

    We definitely need to have dinner and continue this conversation. 🙂

  5. I guess that is the advantage of the anglican way of doing things. They basically read from Old Testament, Psalms, And New Testament each Sunday and preach from all or one of the passages. Keeps one from getting stuck on any one area of preaching.

  6. Nannykim – My husband and I currently attend an Anglican (AMIA) congregation. We so appreciate hearing so much of the Word read aloud/proclaimed each Sunday, and the gracious text-rooted messages given by our rector drawn from the weekly readings. It sounds like you enjoy the same thing at your church that we’re enjoying about our current church. 🙂

    My list comes from some cumulative observations over the life span of my walk with Christ, mostly in non-denominational churches.

  7. I don’t hear enough sermons about sex. I just wanted to put that out there. 😉

  8. Thanks for keeping the discussion going. Choosing what series to preach next is one of the most challenging of the job.

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