Holiday Post 5: Cousins Not Twins

Today is the end of my brief break with the family, so one last post from January 2008 and then I should start posting from 2012 again on Monday . . .

Biblical preaching needs to be relevant. It can’t simply be a theological lecture or a vaguely devotional time-out. It needs to be relevant. There are some who suggest that every sermon must include a series of action steps in order to be considered relevant. Would you agree with that idea? Are relevance and application close to the same, like twins in the preaching family, or are they more like cousins? What is the connection between relevance and application?

Determine the congregational need for the text to be preached.Perhaps there is a lack of understanding of the meaning and relevance of the text, so the message should inform. Perhaps there is a lack of emotional engagement with the meaning and relevance of the text, so the message should stir. Perhaps there is a lack of practical application of the meaning and relevance of the text, so the message should prompt and motivate action. Perhaps there is actually little lacking and the message should encourage and affirm. Perhaps in most situations it will be a combination of several of these.

Encourage application, but also the process that will lead to application. When the text sets up practical applicational action steps, then by all means communicate those clearly. However, simply giving people a list of application steps may be counterproductive. Too many lists, too little time – the reality felt by some listeners. Perhaps sometimes we should suggest possible areas or directions of application, but primarily encourage further prayerful study of the passage as the next step. Our task as preachers is not to be the only source of spiritual prompting, but to stimulate our listeners in their personal walk with the Lord.

A sermon can be highly relevant, even without the to-do list to close. What do you think?

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