If you’ve ever studied counseling at any level, you will have discovered fairly quickly that counseling is not just for the few. In fact, the case could be made that we are all in need of counseling. We all have inner issues that influence how we live, how we respond to God, how we relate to others, etc. Jay Adams is known for his writing in the area of “Biblical Counseling” or “Nouthetic Counselling.” He makes an interesting point in his chapter on “Counseling and Preaching” in Preaching with Purpose. Whatever school of counseling you ascribe to, I think his point is worth taking onboard.
When we preach applicationally for change in listeners’ lives, there are certain obstacles to overcome. Obstacles well known to the counselor, but just as real for the preacher. Adams lists four in his chapter.
1. Excuses. People resist impetus to change by making excuses. As a preacher it is worth thinking about what excuses may come up, and then rhetorically addressing those excuses biblically during the sermon. It would be a shame to preach a great message, only to have listeners resist change by an excuse that could be easily overcome with a little planning.
2. Lack of discipline. Many preachers experience the polite platitudes of the many, but the definite response of the faithful few (or should I say, the disciplined few?) Most people don’t only need instruction on what to do, but also on how to go about doing it. Since it takes discipline to create new habits, perhaps the preacher needs to help people see the path to change more clearly.
Tomorrow I’ll share the other two obstacles to life change that need to be considered for preaching to be ultimately effective.