Profound preaching is not dense, complex or over peoples’ heads. Neither is it merely historical, lacking any hint of relevance and application. The person shaking your hand at the door may tell you “that was deep!” but really mean “that was over my head and apparently irrelevant!” That is not our goal. True biblical preaching should be profound in the right sense of the word – deep, weighty, serious, life-changing. So let’s move on to matters of application:
9. Instructing conduct is probably not profound, motivating it biblically probably is. I say probably because if your motivation method is to guilt trip listeners as you twist their arms to force them into external conformity, then that is not profound. It is poor. The Bible stirs life change and so should our preaching (by God’s grace, of course). We tend to hit truth in explanation and conduct in application, but the Bible goes deeper than a behavioural model of motivating humans:
10. Application should go deeper than a to-do list, probing into thinking patterns and beliefs. There is a place for practical to-do suggestions, but if that is the staple application of a preaching ministry, the long-term fruit will be flimsy even if numerous. Christianity isn’t about conforming behaviour to external standards, but about response to the truth of who God is and what He has said to us. But again, the Bible goes deeper than cognitive approaches to life change:
11. Application needs to target the affections, because the Bible does. Discourse moves us, narratives engage us, poetry stirs us – the Bible reaches to the heart of the listener. Sadly too many preachers assume their role is merely to pressure behavioural change, or educate for cognitive adjustment, but these approaches don’t fully present the message and method of the biblical passages. We must wisely, honestly, carefully and prayerfully engage the hearts of our listeners with the biblical text.
12. While relevance should be a given, transformational application is rare, so pursue it. For instance, how easy it is to preach “don’t be anxious” from the Sermon on the Mount and end up imploring people to try harder not to fret! But the passage points listeners to how much God cares for them. Let’s not promote a pseudo-relevance through just being strongly against something, but rather offer the text’s bigger alternative that attracts and woos. To think of a common Old Testament example, by all means let’s smash idols, but not because we are just anti-idol, rather because God is so much better.
If explanation and application can be more profound, we are on the right track. Tomorrow we’ll look at aspect of our presentation and delivery.