I think most preachers who have some level of commitment to an expository approach to preaching are fairly clear on the importance of understanding the Bible and their listeners. It is the two worlds that John Stott referred to in his great book on the subject. I suspect most preachers are less aware of the inner world that Haddon Robinson refers to – the inner world of the preacher.
It is easy to assume that I know more about me than anyone does, except God, of course. To a certain extent that is true. The problem is in the blind spots. We all have them. We all struggle to spot them or recognise their influence on our preaching. Let me suggest a few aspects of the inner world of the preacher and how such things will influence our preaching.
The Value System We Assimilated Growing Up – Perhaps you grew up in a family situation where some things were valued higher than others. Actually, you did grow up in such a situation, for good or bad. Perhaps a strong work ethic, or a weak one. Perhaps a high concern for what others think. Perhaps task over people. Perhaps a view of the class structure of society. Perhaps a skewed definition of success. Perhaps under the pressure of perfectionism. Perhaps in an atmosphere of racism, or sexism, or any other -ism. Whatever value system you absorbed, it is influencing you. Even if you think you’ve processed, rejected, reacted, or adjusted, it is still important to be aware of the grid through which your value system may process information, situations, biblical texts, and applications thereof.
The Emotional Baggage We Carry From The Past – Some of the items listed above result in emotional baggage. So too does past trauma, relational breakdown, personal sin, the sin of others, abuse, grief, loss, etc. While some of us have been spared the agony that others have had to face, and the burden they’ve secretly carried, none of us are free of emotional baggage. Guilt, pressure, failure, pain, loneliness, grief, hurt, etc., will all influence our preaching imperceptibly (to us, but listeners will pick up a vibe at some point). It is easy to project hidden issues onto texts and application. We need to prayerfully and conversationally process these things in order to know the inner world of ourselves as preachers.
The Personality Preferences and Tendencies We Assume To Be Normal or Right – Everyone else has issues. I’m normal. You probably are too. But actually we need to be aware of our own quirks in order that we don’t press them onto others. Introvert or extrovert. A way of thinking. A sense of humour. A view of the world. An inner wiring to desire to be liked, or to be right, or to be accepted. An approach to interpersonal communication. A preferred conflict resolution style. A level of energy or enthusiasm for certain things.
I don’t want to advocate for self-absorption or self-obsession. We need to keep our gaze fixed on Christ. Nevertheless, as we look to Him, let’s be honest with Him and ask Him to help us be aware of how the inner landscape of our lives might be influencing how we handle the text, how we preach it, how we live it.