I have introduced the notion of preaching as being the combination of three participants gathered around the Bible. But the key feature of this approach is to see the importance of the relationships. Like an electrical circuit, what matters is the connections. And when there is a full set of connections, then something powerful occurs!
A. God & Preacher. The preacher doesn’t engage the Bible merely to find a message for the listener. Rather the preacher’s primary concern is to engage with God relationally. Out of the overflow of this relationship comes the ministry to the listener. God doesn’t empower the preacher merely for the sake of the listeners, but loves and delights in His child. When this relationship fades from view, the preacher will experience dullness in ministry and potentially burnout. As the preacher engages with God personally, he/she also joins with God to form a community of carers – that is, the preacher starts to look toward the listeners with God’s loving concern.
B. Preacher & Listener. The preacher speaks with the authority of God’s Word, yet does so as one on the same level as the listener, as a fellow responder to God’s Word. The listener will appreciate the knowledge and spirituality of the preacher, but also will appreciate the vulnerability of a fellow believer who clearly recognizes the community of believers. A sermon motivated by love for listeners will be better than one motivated by self-love in the preacher. As the preacher/teacher’s heart connects with the hearts of the listeners, a community of responsiveness toward God is reinforced.
C. Listener & God. The effective preaching of God’s Word enables the listener to relate not only, or primarily, to the preacher, but to God himself. But more than that: in effective biblical preaching God is giving of Himself to the listener, building the connection between them. In this connection both God and the listener become a community of listeners, joining together to delight in each other, and even in the preacher as he/she makes much of the grace of God in His Son. (When preaching offers a non-biblical portrait of God, or leaves Him out altogether, then both God and listener will be grieved or burdened.)
So whatever opportunity you have, be sure to view the teaching opportunity as primarily a relational opportunity – between God and you, then between you and them, for the sake of them and God!