A missed step jars. Try to accompany someone singing who misses a beat. Try a choreographed dance but miss a step. Next time you’re figure skating in the Olympics, miss a step before going for your quad. Ok, these examples are getting slightly less likely, but what about in preaching? I suppose there are a lot of steps that can be skipped to the detriment of our preaching, both in preparation and in delivery. Here’s one:
You explain a particular text. It sets out some clear expectations of how we should be living in response to God – perhaps instruction, perhaps command. Application is clear, so you present it. But in doing so it is obvious that some or many listeners would have fallen short of this in their experience. Perhaps the demands relate to morality, purity, relationship, thought-life, etc. (It should go without saying that you recognized people might feel convicted before delivering the message.) So since some or all listeners have already fallen short of the application of this text you reassure people of God’s love and grace.
Hold on. Missed a step. Too often, perhaps in this generation in particular, it is easy to preach comfortable messages and avoid the discomforting but vital step of calling for repentance. Are people helped by being reassured of God’s grace without also being urged to repent? If God is a relationally jealous God, and we have been adulterous and unfaithful to Him, then is it enough to have feelings placated by assurances of His goodness? Surely a jealous lover’s goodness is little comfort to an unfaithful spouse unresponsive to the necessary conviction for sin?
It may be harder to preach, but giving people opportunity to repent, reminder to respond, must be a necessary step in some sermons.