Have you read Martin Lloyd Jones? Wow! He is thorough and deep, BUT most pastors are not nor can be Martin Lloyd Jones, and may I suggest the people in the pew don’t want them to be.
Arthur Pink and Martin Lloyd Jones, as well as many others, provide pastors with good exposition and commentary on biblical passages. The problem, as I see it, is that it doesn’t preach well to the local church congregation.
Taking years to cover one book of the Bible gets very tedious to the local body of believers. I’ll never forget a man in one of the churches I served saying to me, “When are you going to get done with Hebrews?” That statement was powerful. It hurt because I knew that I was not connecting. On the other hand, I preached through 1Corinthians at another church, and the statements revealed that the message was getting through. What was the difference?
Before I answer that question, I want to say that I recently attended a pastors’ conference called “Shepherd’s Haven.” It is held by the “Brown Boys,” all sons of the late Dr. Kenneth Brown. They are all pastors and capable of handling the Word. This year’s conference was on Hebrews. In two days, they handled the book. Of course they had about six messages a day, so it would take a quarter of the year to handle it in a Sunday message schedule, but they did it. And they did it well. The big idea of the book came through loud and clear, the difficult passages handled well, and the book understood. Hebrews can be preached in large sections.
Now, back to the question. When I preached through 1 Corinthians, I did so by subject. Therefore, I preached large passages of Scripture. By doing so, the people “got the big idea.” Handling chapters 12-14 in one message was difficult, but the message intended by Paul came through. Probably the seventh chapter on marriage was the most helpful. The theme, “wherever you are, stay there—single, widowed, married or divorced,” was clear. It also was relevant since it applied to many of the congregation situations.
My point in this “Pastor to Pastor” is that handling real small sections of a book is very profitable for a topical/devotional stand-alone message or a short series of messages, but to preach a whole book in that manner, the people get lost. Try preaching larger portions of the Bible, and see how the people respond.
Former church planter, Roger Ridley, preached a “whole book” for every Sunday for an entire year. He said that it was the most challenging year of his preaching life, but that it was the most profitable for the church. Why? Because they started to understand the big picture of the Bible!
A lawyer once said, “The man who understands the whole law can best interpret the part of the law.”
J.I. Packer said this in his book on Interpreting the Bible,
If we would understand the parts, our wisest course is to get to know the whole— or, at any rate, those parts of the whole which tell us in plain prose the writer’s central ideas. These give us the key to all his work. Once we can see the main outlines of his thought and have grasped his general point of view, we are able to see the meaning of everything else—the point of his poems and the moral of his stories, and how the puzzling passages fit in with the rest. We may find that his message has a consistency hitherto unsuspected, and that elements in his thought which seemed contradictory are not really so at all. The task of interpreting the mind of God as expressed in His written Word is of the same order as this, and must be tackled in the same way. The beginner in Bible study often feels lost; he cannot at first grasp the Bible’s over-all point of view, and so does not see the wood for the trees. As his understanding increases, however, he becomes more able to discern the unity of the biblical message, and to see the place of each part in the whole.
Recently, my pastor, Patrick Odle, preached a particular message in his series on the life of David. He preached the narrative of I Samuel 25-27 in one message. WHY? Because the three chapters are one story! To break it up would miss the overall message. It was powerful.
I trust this communique to you pastors will be an encouragement to preach large passages of Scripture, helping the people to understand the clear message of God.