It is ironic that in an age where electronic tools are so readily available that word study occupies such a small place on the pulpit. Instead, we have sermon after sermon of storytelling from beginning to end. Some sermons are so full of stories that we can hardly figure out what their main point is.
I have made it my discipline to share at least one word study per sermon so that I can educate the audience. This is a great discipline to keep me in the word and keep me disciplined in the original languages. Furthermore, the pastor should never neglect his duty to educate. When it comes to storytelling, I’m a bit of a contrarian to the current trend. I much prefer to find one word study that needs an illustration and illustrate the heck out of it so that people can get the right impression about the message.
What should I do to look for such words to illustrate? I would look for any theologically significant word that contributes to the overall sermon text. If I were to preach on the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6, I would illustrate what it means to have a “hallowed name”. The name of YHWH means is related to the Hebrew “He will be”. I would talk about how a great person is so far removed from us that when his name is mentioned, people would just go “wow.” So, I’ll have to look for a story that conveys that idea.
Let me qualify by saying what I’m not proposing. I’m not proposing that we share the word study straight from our study to the pulpit by pronouncing the Greek and Hebrew word, followed by a quick and dirty translation exercise right at the sermon with a discussion of what scholars think about the translation possibilities. Of course, you can do that if you want to use the pulpit to perform insomnia therapy.
What I’m saying is that we can very well work on some stories that illustrate. The stories are the means to helping people grasp the concept of such words. We shouldn’t tell stories just to tell stories. We should see stories are vehicle for rhetorical effect and education.
Try finding one word to illustrate and see how it works out. Let me know if you have any question about how to do this via my Facebook page. I’m sure the audience will appreciate the effort. Remember, word studies are not merely for passing your Greek and Hebrew classes. They’re part of “God’s word”.