“Telling About” Or “Giving An Experience Of”

In my early years of ministry I came across a preaching book by John Mason Stapleton called Preaching In Demonstration Of The Spirit And Power.  Not the catchiest title, but it does come straight from I Corinthians 2:4.


Anyway, in that book, Stapleton goes to great lengths to distinguish between telling about the biblical passage you are preaching on and giving an experience of that text.

Telling about creates distance from the text.  Giving an experience of  brings people into the passage in all of its messiness and all of its clarity.

For example, a couple of years ago I did a sermon on drunk, naked Noah in Genesis 9.  Telling about that story would have gone in one of two directions:  1) explained why Noah got drunk; or 2) exhorting the people in the church not to do the same!

Yet giving an experience of that story involved:  1) acknowledging that you don’t find Genesis 9 in any illustrated children’s bible ever; 2) explaining the extraordinary lengths to which Shem and Japheth had to go to clean up and cover up their father’s nakedness; 3) asking, almost painfully, who has to clean up after you? 

My prayer was that people in the church didn’t learn about Noah; they saw the ways in which they are Noah.  And that they did some serious moral inventorying as they consider who has to clean up after their mess.

(Incidentally, that sermon will be Chapter Five of the upcoming Abingdon release The Storm Before The Calm.)

Why am I posting this during Holy Week?

Well, on Sunday . . . do you suspect I’ll try to tell you about resurrection or give you an experience of it?