word - and image

When I am invited to speak somewhere, I find that if a topic, or approach, fills the imagination quickly, then this is usually God graciously at work in me. He plants an idea in my mind and by doing so confirms to me the rightness of saying 'yes'. When I say 'no', it is often because God has not done any planting...

Twelve months ago I was asked to put together a day-long seminar for the Carey School of Preaching back home in New Zealand. Immediately an idea came to mind: merging the Stottian phrase I've heard more often than any other in the last decade (working with Langham internationally) with the Stottian sentence I quoted more often than any other in the earlier two decades (working in theological education in New Zealand).

The phrase is 'double listening' (to Word and World). The sentence is 'the secret of preaching is not so much mastering certain techniques, but being mastered by certain convictions.' Merging this phrase and this sentence creates the two concerns about preaching that never seem too far from my mind:

In listening to the Word, the need today is to be mastered by certain convictions.
In listening to the World, the need today is to master certain techniques.

I've just finished three days back-to-back-to-back - Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin - and even managed to lose my voice for the last one, virtually whispering my way through the final day!

Alongside merging Word and World, I slipped in another cherished merger: Word and Image. Early on I decided to try and model what I was teaching by finishing the day with a sermon from an obscure passage: Ecclesiastes 3.16-4.12, with its four "I saw" phrases and suggesting that the writer here is a grandfatherly sage posting four photos on his Instagram feed.

So I went in search of my good friend from way back - the artist-preacher, Fred Brunell. I explained the concept to him. I needed four sketches/paintings from him, one for each photo on the Instagram feed. We communicated back and forth over the intervening months. Here is his work. We displayed it around the room through each day, without comment, hoping to intrigue people. I preached my exposition from the passage, surrounded by these images - and we even found pathways to Christ at the end!

Thanks, Freddie. Great to collaborate with you and to express a shared longing: to see a generation of faithful biblical expositors engage their imaginations on the way to the sermon. Love your work - but cherish your friendship even more. Most of me wanted to be in the USA at my father-in-law's Memorial Service - but I stayed home for a few reasons, one of which was to honour you, the work you've done for me and the work Jesus is doing through you as an artist.

nice chatting



Kathy Turner said…
Thank you for honoring your commitment to being in Dunedin last Saturday.
There was a lot to take in and think about during the week and as I sit down to prepare a message there is the challenge of finding different ways of delivering it.
When I first walked into the room there was a series of pictures which I admit I found quite disturbing, but I knew there was a reason that they were there and during the course of the day I found myself quite intrigued with them and I think that was partly because throughout the day you were encouraging us to see deeper (the sadness, emotion etc) and to find God, Jesus & the Holy Spirit in whatever media we use.
Thank you once again for sharing.

Paul said…
Hi Kathy

I hope that you felt you were able to explore some new depths and insights with your recent message.

The images were disturbing, weren't they?! As you mention, our preaching needs to explore the pain in our world more fully and do so at a deeper, affective level. Images - like stories - can help us do that better ... and it IS possible to fit them within the framework of Biblically-based, Christ-focused exposition.



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