At Southwestern Seminary, we teach text-driven preaching, believing that text-driven preaching not only leads to text-driven living, but flows from it.
A text-driven sermon is one that allows the substance, structure, and spirit of the text to drive the sermon. It is not one based on a standard, “go to” format, or one that makes the preacher look and sound good. It is also not a sermon just about the text; rather it is a re-presentation of the text.
The motivation for this approach is what we believe about the nature of God. God has revealed Himself in Christ and Christ has revealed Himself in the Word. That, at least in my opinion, is the major driving impetus for what we preachers do. We preach the text to take people to Christ, and Christ takes people to the Father. But it is deeper than that, and broader than that as well.
Despite what we preachers want to believe, preaching is not life. And, the text-driven sermon is not the big goal of life. The reality is that this idea is an expression of a larger goal of living a text-driven life. Art and calling imitate life. We defer to the text in the sermon because we defer to the text in all things. The sermon shape flows from the private conviction that all of life should be influenced by the text. This is the goal: to live a text-driven life.
By the way, this is why the preparation for ministry, not just a sermon, should be text-driven: Text-driven student ministry, music ministry, women’s ministry, or children’s ministry. This is what a seminary should be about – preparing people to say, “This is what God’s Word says to your situation.” All of ministry should be a ministry of the word of God.
So, what is a text-driven life? A text-driven life is a life responding to God’s Word. In other words, we believe God has spoken and we respond.
The other way to live life is pretend God has not spoken; to allow all the world to be mediated to us and then respond to the world: Who won the game, who is winning the elections, who is saying what in social media, who is setting the conversation on television? We tune in and then respond; after all, the world has spoken and it demands a response.
A text-driven life is one that understands that God has spoken. He has revealed Himself. And, God demands a response. A text-driven life has the nerve to mute all other voices that compete with the Word of God. His voice is clear and vibrant; competing voices are muted, flat, and monochromatic.
A text-driven life is not isolationist; rather it is reading all other words while wearing the lenses of God’s word, of eternal truth. A text-driven life, therefore, has both wisdom and knowledge. They don’t just know, they understand.
Why this approach to life? The answer is simple: All of life comes from God and God has spoken to every area of my life. We live a text-driven life for the same reason we preach text-driven sermons, God has spoken.
There is nothing I need more in life than to understand how God speaks to all of my life. I need to know how the Word of God is reading me.
The best way to understand a text-driven life is to read Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is the prayer of a text-driven life. Read it and over the next few posts, we will discuss what it means to live a text-driven life.