Friday, June 19, 2009

Preaching to the Whole Man

Within any congregation, there will be some people who are inclined toward information, others who want you to connect with their emotions and still some who would like to receive their "marching orders." Not only is the pastor aware of these different types (and he is aware, for he is often told about their preference), but the pastor is also aware of that each individual congregant has intellectual, emotional and volitional capacities.

Often, pastors are tempted to accomplish all three in one sermon. Give the people some specific application while also firing off some information/data. In between, you tell a great joke or heart warming story to connect with some. But multiple targets will dilute or dull the blade of God's Word. So how can the message be kept sharp yet effect the entire man?

It is not a problem if a sermon is informational, emotional or motivational. In fact, it could actually be argued that an attribute of a good sermon is that it contains all three. But their is an order in which these things must rightly be taught. First off, if the sermon is based on the text (and is it a sermon if it is not based upon the Word?), then their is information which must be shared and applied to the mind. However, gaining information is not the end. His prayer should be that his listener is effected by the information they have heard, so that they view God differently. His vision of himself should be altered so that he seeks God's perspective rather than our own. And if the person is truly effected and changed, his actions will look different.

The above diagram should not grant the preacher peace. His response should not be to look at the picture and think, "Oh, well I can do that!" Instead, he should feel completely broken and undone. There is no way possible that he can direct the path of his preached words once the words have left his mouth.

No, instead, the pastor should see that he has been called to an impossible task. This should call the pastor to see his utter dependance upon the Holy Spirit. He alone is the only One capable of giving the sermon this kind of power.

But how do we ensure the work of the Holy Spirit in our preaching?

1 comment:

Darby Livingston said...

I think Edwards had a lot to say about this in Religious Affections. I can't imagine preaching that isn't aimed at the affections. Everyone does what he thinks will make him most happy or least unhappy, not what he thinks is most true or least untrue. So I think preaching is like shooting the bullet of truth into the target of man's affections. Truth is what changes a person's affections for idols to affections for God.