As preachers we are called to do more than inform the mind. We are not lecturers. We are not called to achieve a stated goal by any means possible. We are not salesmen. So how are we to navigate the pulpit so that we fulfill our calling, but don’t overstep the mark and take on tasks that are not ours?
1. Preach to the heart. It is important to understand that people are not just mind and will, but first and foremost are heart-driven. The Bible teaches this, even with all the gymnastics some teachers go through to avoid what the text says. The heart is more than mere emotions, but it is not merely the mind as some suggest. In Ephesians 4:17-18 Paul urges the believers not to function like the unsaved Gentiles. They do not act well because of their minds, thinking, and understanding. But there is another issue. Their minds are the way they are because their hearts are hardened. The heart is central, critical and very much in control. So, as preachers we must address the heart and not take a short cut to just the mind or will.
2. Don’t stir the emotions and then attach spiritual content to that. Since the heart includes emotions, it is tempting to merely stir the emotions and then attach our message to that emotional reaction. You can tell a moving story about the little boy who finally hit a home run (for Brits think of a boy hitting a six), then as people feel themselves filling up, drive home the application of the sermon. “You too are standing at the plate, Jesus is asking you to commit to this challenge this week, will you commit? Will you swing the bat?” This is riding on the back of imported emotion to “achieve” something while preaching. This is manipulation.
3. Allow the text to reach the heart. The solution is not to merely preach an intellectual sermon and avoid the heart. The key is to preach the text well so that the text itself and the message of the text can do its job. If the passage is moving, let it move people. If the passage is stirring, let it stir people. When the text itself and the message itself stir the emotions, great. Don’t feel you have to import a moving story to get the job done. Make sure that emotions are stirred by the text, the message, the idea itself.