Following on from yesterday’s post about the process of preparation being logical, but not mechanical, I’d like to come at the same issue from a different angle.
There is a danger that we follow a process like the 8-stage approach presented on this site, and then afterward seek to “add affect.” That is, we work through the steps, end up with something of a message, but then try to add the affective elements to it. These might include adding some sense of its effect or affect on us, the preacher. Or adding elements to stir the affections of the listener.
Adding Affect Smacks of Rhetorical Trickery. Distinctly adding in content, or manner, or anecdote for the purpose of stirring response from listeners feels to me like the rhetorical trickery of the professional speakers of Paul’s day. There are ways to generate response, to stir emotion, to manipulate feelings. What place do these have in a ministry of integrity? Hopefully none.
Preaching Flat is No Solution. Some seem to reject emotional manipulation by preaching purely informational sermons. They seem to think that simply saying the truth and leaving all aspects of response and emotion to the Holy Spirit is the way to honour what Paul was saying in 1Cor.1-4. I beg to differ. Anytime we leave a part of preaching to the Holy Spirit, we are suggesting that there are some things we can do, and other bits He must do. Leaving application to the Holy Spirit can sometimes seem to suggest that we can handle explanation without Him. This is wrong thinking. The preacher’s task is to explain, to apply, to represent the message of the text, to speak as God’s spokesperson, God’s herald, doing all in dependence on the Holy Spirit. This roundabout paragraph brings me to my point though – how can we flat preach a text that isn’t flat?
Affect Shouldn’t Be Added, But Pervade. If the text you are studying comes with the affective contours of a real life writer in real life tensions, inspired by a passionate God who has a heart . . . then where does this “flat” bit come from? It is our received approach that makes exegesis a cold process. It is our elevation of cold intellectual knowledge to a revered status. The text isn’t mere information. God isn’t pure mind. We don’t need to be mere intellects in action as we prepare. Listeners aren’t blank slates waiting for an information dump.
So where does this passage touch my heart? Not as an afterthought, or I haven’t really studied it. At every stage in the process my heart should be responsive to the text. Actually, responsive to the God who inspired the text. Let us grow in engaging fully with God, with His Word, and then hopefully our listeners will grow in the same as they respond to the preaching of His Word.