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On the Workshop Floor

By Michael Roop

“Preaching is a lot like woodworking,” my preaching professor once said. “In order to produce a worthwhile product, you’re going to have to leave some quality pieces of wood on the floor of your shop.”

As I dig into a passage in preparation for a sermon, I often find so many points worth exploring. I try to discern the author’s intended message. I try to understand how that message connects to the broader message of the book, and where that message fits into redemptive history. I try to explore how that message illuminates God’s character and leads us to the cross and the empty tomb. I try to identify how that message intersects with our current cultural moment, how it speaks to the life of our church, and how it guides the individual listener at various stages of their walk, from skeptic all the way to devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

But I can’t stop there. If I stand up on Sunday and say absolutely everything that might be said about a passage (which is my temptation!), I would be out of step with one of Paul’s major concerns in his preaching. Toward the end of Colossians, Paul seeks prayer that he would “make it (the mystery of Christ) clear” (4:4) when he encounters an opportunity to preach.

Which leads me back to the wisdom of my preaching professor. If the finished product of a sermon is going to be beneficial to the congregation, it must be clear. And clarity demands that certain quality pieces of wood get left on the workshop floor. There is an art to focusing a sermon around the singular point of the passage, and it’s one I’m continually learning.

A few weeks back, while I was preaching through Galatians 1:10-2:10, I left one major piece of wood on the workshop floor that is, in my opinion, too valuable to leave there. So, I tried to repurpose it in a podcast format, which you can find here.

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Don’t Forget the Poor
In Galatians 2:10, Paul adds a footnote to the conclusion of this church leadership meeting. Peter, James, and John agreed that circumcision and a Jewish religious identity should not be added to repentance as a necessary response to the gospel. However, there was one thing they didn’t want Paul to forget: take care of the poor! How does care for the poor intersect with a preserved gospel, and what is required of us now?
Listen here.

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