Traditionally preaching means reading a text, explaining it at length and then eventually fitting in a block of application if time permits. Practically that is rarely the best approach. If emphasizing the relevance of the text is as much a part of our task as explaining the text (but necessarily requiring the explanation in order to have any authority), then we need to think about how to increase the sense of relevance in our preaching. A few thoughts:
1. By explaining as much as necessary, but not over-explaining, we create time for application. It is tempting to try to present all the proof of our study, every nugget, whenever we preach. It takes a commitment to application to only explain as much as necessary and use the rest of the time to target emphasizing the relevance to our listeners.
2. By stating our points and main idea in “us” terms, we drive relevance to the surface (and drive it deeper into the listeners). It doesn’t take much to state the point in relevant terms, then step back into the world of the text to explain and support that wording, following up again with an emphasis on relevance. Instead of sounding like we’re preaching a commentary, instead we can sound like we’re speaking directly to our listeners.
3. If the main idea is the take home truth, why wouldn’t we try to put it in “us” terms? It may not always work, but often the main idea of the message can be stated relevantly, rather than historically or in abstract form. This is the synopsis of the whole that we really want seared into the lives of our listeners.
4. Introduce relevance in the introduction. Don’t presume people are desperate for a sermon on 2nd Chronicles 13. They probably didn’t come with that on their minds. So use the introduction to demonstrate the relevance of the passage, the message, the speaker.
5. Even in explanation, season with relevance. It doesn’t take much time to drop in comments relating the back then to today. Even the briefest of comparisons in the telling of an ancient narrative can shed contemporary light and give the sense of relevance to the listeners.
Application logically comes last in a message. But if our goal is effective preaching, we’ll look for ways to integrate applicaton (in its various forms) and relevance throughout the message.