No preacher would admit to preaching in order to fill time, or to fulfill an obligation, or to fill a pulpit. We say we preach for response. After all, what other motivation could we cite? I know, some will quickly rush to language of glorifying God. But God isn’t pleased by time filling or untouched listeners. So what do we mean?
Do we mean that preaching should get more than a polite thank you from the gathered listeners? Sure. Do we mean that preaching should get a positive or exuberant statement of reception from the listeners? I don’t think so. The Lord’s preaching certainly seemed to polarize rather than please all. Some will be stirred and drawn, others will be offended and withdraw.
This is where it gets interesting for me, and here’s the thought for the day. What is the division or polarization created by our preaching? Simplistically we might assume that it is a sorting of sinners and saints. You know, those in sin pushed away by how seriously we address sin and the godly encouraged; the culture upset and absent while the churchy folks pleased and present. But that didn’t seem to be the result of Jesus’ preaching, did it?
What if we realize that the gospel is not about preaching a message of pressuring responsibility? That is, what if we preach the glorious loving grace of God that stirs and warms and draws hearts to Christ? Instead of whipping our listeners with burdens, what if we preach the One who was whipped for them?
This kind of preaching typically offends the religious who feel responsible for their own goodness. These are the people who don’t see their own efforts and diligence and pride and self-centredness as being at all sin-stained. This kind of preaching typically draws the broken and hurting and weak.
When we switch from preaching responsibility to actually preaching for a response we may find that the polarization both switches and increases. When we recognize the difference between responsibility and response, then certainly our preaching will change. It is so easy to preach to pressure people to be good. It takes something more to preach how good Christ is, so that listeners might be drawn to Him. What is the something more?
I suppose it comes down to me on my own with my Bible and my Lord. Is it all about me? Or about Him? Is it about what I must do (responsibility)? Or about what He is like (response)?
Preaching for response requires clarity on the distinction between response and responsibility.