As you preach through a text it will be offering a vision – a vision of what God is like, a vision of God’s purposes, a vision of what His people should be like in response to Him, a vision of what the world could be like. The problem is that it is too easy to preach truth from a text and feel like the job is done.
The preacher’s task is not only to understand the text (specific), in its context (general), but also to know the listeners (specific) in their context (general). This includes knowing how the message will come across. So there is the detailed part of communication – i.e. do they understand what I mean by each word and each sentence. But there is also the broader part of communication – i.e. have they been able to envision the bigger picture of what is going on here? Too often we settle for being understood at an atomistic level, but fail to make the most of the broad vision casting opportunity.
So when we preach, we should be asking ourselves, and God, what does this passage depict for us? Is it speaking of the fallen condition of humanity and God’s great redemptive work? Is it speaking of God’s character and attractiveness? Is it painting a portrait of what the body of Christ should look like? Is it suggestive of all that an individual believer, or local church, could be and do in response to Christ? Try to see the big picture on the applicational side, the listeners’ side of the divide.
Once you catch a clear glimpse of the bigger picture (again, I am speaking of the bigger picture on the listeners’ side, rather than just the passage in its context, which is vital for understanding the specifics), then look for ways to help the listener to hear and to see that scene. A visionary message, in this sense, will stir hearts and lift listeners in motivation. It will rouse tired hearts. It will move stuck believers.
Each passage is a specific painting in the greater collage of God’s great canon. Each sermon is an opportunity to stir hearts with something bigger than understanding a specific painting.