On Christian Instruction
“...but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
“But what we ought to do is, to give a comprehensive statement of all things, summarily and generally, so that certain of the more wonderful facts may be selected which are listened to with superior gratification...that, instead of exhibiting them to view only in their wrappings, if we may so speak, and then instantly snatching them from our sight, we ought to dwell on them for a certain space, and thus, as it were, unfold them and open them out to vision, and present them to the minds of the hearers as things to be examined and admired.”
Sometimes we just try to give people too much. Augustine would say, paint out the background, so folks can get a clear picture of the “lay of the land” of your teaching. Then choose the more interesting and appealing details within that landscape, and dwell on them more deeply. That’s pretty good advice. We are all selective in our preaching and teaching, anyway, because we simply can’t speak about everything God is revealing in particular text or passage. We’re going to make choices regarding where we dwell. Augustine would agree, but he wants a clear background for the details, and a selection process based on the hearers and their needs and concerns.
What process do you follow in deciding which of the details of any passage to focus on in your preaching? Would you say that you follow Augustine’s advice in this matter?
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Pastor to Pastor brings the insights of great servants of God from the past to pastors in our own day, to link our ministries with theirs in the grand tradition of building the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.