In my experience churches are receptive to solid biblical teaching. People crave truth (meat as Hebrews calls it) and flock to it when they find it. The trouble is, they do not find it often enough because our leaders are not as biblically active as they should be. Many feign biblical activity, but not enough meditation, not enough serious study, not enough learning from Scripture goes into their messages. Too many pastors decide what to teach then look to Scripture to support their ideas (which are often more concerned with being relevant or clever than in being biblically based). The church needs teachers who get their ideas from Scripture, who teach divine truth, not human ideas. I am not suggesting that relevance (or even cleverness) are bad things. But the preacher who teaches the word, instead of using it as a resource, will deliver messages more relevant (and clever) than anything he or she could have come up with alone.
This applies especially to the great stories in the Bible. We worry too much about extracting meaning from the stories, when the stories themselves convey more meaning and nuance and variation than we can possibly extract or explain all at once. We go wrong when we approach the Bible as a textbook, life manual, or source material. It is a book of stories. Even the letters from Paul are what we have left of stories, one side of a conversation, not detachable propositional statements.
And I have to admit, I have strayed from Bible preaching myself. I’d like to think I chose topics and themes based on the Spirit’s leading. Hopefully I did. But I’m also as busy, distracted, and reactionary as the next weekly preacher. So I’ve committed to preach the Book of Acts this year because of everything I just said, and because I feel a deep tug in my soul to do so. There are great stories in Acts and I can’t wait to see where this takes us. Right out of the gate, I had to preach from Acts 1, where they cast lots to choose Matthias to replace Judas. What a weird story! Then I talked about the urim and thummin and the times those got used – more weird stories! I think it wound up being good (listen here and let me know what you think), with the final point being that we need to leave room for God to direct our steps (without using dice!). One thing I love about this approach is it forces me to preach texts I would otherwise avoid.
I know there are other ways to preach the Bible than to go through a book. And yes, going through a book can get long and dry. But I think with enough discipline, study, and imagination, it can be good and life-giving. Another way is to have small groups work through books of the Bible together (I led a home group through Acts years ago and it was good). That’s good too, but I suggest that our main gatherings are excellent places for the didactic work of teaching our core stories (with the stories themselves as the main feature) while our smaller gatherings are perfectly suited for talking out the practical implications of how we live based on these stories that we are becoming part of.