I enjoyed a good conversation about preaching yesterday. Here’s a thought. 2 hypothetical situations:
Situation 1 – I have received a letter from the tax office stating that a Mr Jones is going to be hearing from the bailiffs if he doesn’t pay his tax bill within five days. I figure out that Mr Jones lives six doors down from me. Out of courtesy I take the letter to him and hand it over.
Situation 2 – I have a close friend who works in the tax office who lets me know that a mutual friend of ours, who happens to live next door, is long overdue on a tax payment and needs to respond immediately. I go next door and explain the situation carefully and clearly to Mr Smith, making sure he understands the gravity of the situation.
Which situation will offer the more compelling communication. Obviously the second one. Why? Because in the first I know neither the person in the tax office, nor the recipient. In the second one I know and like both of them.
Question: when you preach, which situation fits you? Ignore any tax and duty typology here – that’s not my point. As a communicator do I take data from the study of a written document and present that clearly to others? That is, do I handle a 2-D document in a manner that is relationally disconnected? Or do I have a heart-level connection with both the Author of that document, and the listeners of my message?
Many preachers and pastors are alert to the importance of knowing and loving the people to whom they preach. Humans can sense when someone cares, or even when someone likes them. Have you heard a preacher that didn’t seem to like you? I have recently and it left me stone cold. A good shepherd really loves his sheep. A good under-shepherd will too.
Fewer preachers seem to be alert to the importance of the heart connection in the other side of the preaching mix. That is, do you as a preacher know not only the text, but do you know and love and like the God who inspired it?
This makes a massive difference, but is rarely addressed in the preaching books. Massive difference. If you are not compelled and captivated by the One whose Word you preach, then why should your listeners be marked by its presentation? Your love for them alone is inadequate. It will carry things a decent distance, but it will fall short. The connection, ultimately, has to be between them and Him. Relational coldness between you and them, or you and Him, will short-circuit the whole loop.