When we preach, we must aim beyond mere comprehension. Making understandable truth statements is important, but it falls short of the ultimate goal.
Our goal in preaching is not to offer a verbal form of written commentary – principles and doctrines and truths. Our goal is to go beyond that to the level of helping listeners engage with the text and the God of the text. This requires various things beyond the reading of a commentary, including relevance and targeted communication for the specific listeners before you. And it requires our aiming beyond mere comprehension.
How do we preach so that listeners not only comprehend cognitively, but also engage affectively? After all, every encounter with a person goes deeper than understanding what is said to a heart-level response to the person themselves. We always know whether we are drawn to and repulsed by any individual we meet. We always have a “first-impression” that takes some work to overcome with comprehension and thought processes. And since preaching the Bible is not merely about transferring information, it follows that we need to preach for more than mere understanding.
How do we do this? There are many factors, but let me share one:
Preach so that images form on the screen in the hearts of the listeners. When preaching narrative, do a good job at describing the characters and the action so that listeners can be drawn in and identify with the characters in their encounter with God. When preaching poetry, do a good job at describing the imagery and emotion of the writer so that listeners can be drawn into the situation of the poet and engage with them and their God. When preaching discourse, do a good job at describing the situation and the tension so that listeners can be drawn in and feel the force of the communication from the person presenting God.
Adequate preaching presents truths like a teleprompter. Great preaching makes the truth felt as it becomes clear, lucid and vivid on the screen in the listeners’ hearts.