Thursday, October 7, 2010

Exegetical "Grind"

This week has been about grinding coffee. The rule says that a 2 oz espresso uses 14-16 grams of coffee and should take 25-30 seconds. Mine are running 13-15 seconds. I am learning that, if the shots are running too fast, the grind needs to be finer. If they are running to slow, the grind needs to be coarser. So my grind needs to be finer. I am getting to know my grinder to figure out how to do this.

It occurs to me that coffee is like the Bible and the grind is exegesis –- the process of analyzing and interpreting the biblical text. Relying too much on biblical commentaries is like using ground coffee. Much of the work is done for you but, like the coffee, the exegesis is dated. The best sermons, like the best espresso, require freshness.

Among preaching students—and preachers, I suspect—we can find two types of exegete. Those that enjoy exegesis produce a very fine grind. The message of the gospel gets clogged up in the exegesis. The preaching of those who are not exegetical fans is watery. Of course, the proper amount of exegesis depends on the discipline of the preacher and the expectations of the congregation.

So, the teaching question for me as a teacher of preaching is do I need to do more to teach this balance? I have trusted my colleagues in Bible classes to teach exegesis for preaching. Do I need to do something more or different in preaching classes? Any suggestions?


  1. Having a palate for the final product is essential if we are going to find the balanced grind that we desire. If we place little or no significance on what the grind will produce, we'd be happy with purchasing instant coffee. When I first started drinking coffee (on internship, no less) I drowned it in cream and sugar. But as the years passed, I slowly lessened the sweetness and increased the boldness of my morning cup. Students and young preachers will learn to refine their grind over the course of years and will change depending on the taste of their congregation and situation.

    What I appreciated about your classes, on top of learning how to preach, was that I learned to love the preaching act. And it is that love that brings me to work with joy at my daily grind, week after week.

  2. I spent much of the afternoon fussing with a grinder and finally managed to pull shots according to the espresso golden rule. I must have gone through a pound of beans. Exegesis takes practice, fussing, and trial and error. And the shots of espresso that was the result of the exercise was a sweet reward.

  3. From Bob Gross via Facebook: I guess it depends on your student's sermons. Are they watery, have they not applied what was taught in exegesis, or are they so thick you can stand a spoon in their sermons, in which case they are getting caught in exegesis and not straining out the the most tasteful message? I do agree that like a good coffee, sermons need to be freshly ground. Since the program, I've found myself much less commentary dependent. One of the presenters at this summer's New Church Leadership Institute commented that stories used in sermons need to be less than seven days old. I've challenged myself to live up to that standard. Oh, I still quote other authors but I make sure that there is a significant something in the mix that is recent and the more the better.