Preaching is a simple concept. You prayerfully prepare and then communicate the biblical text to a contemporary audience. God, Bible, Preacher, Listeners. Voila. A good preacher will be someone who is close to God, studies the text well, communicates effectively and pastorally targets the listeners. Simple.
Unless you probe this. For instance, there are multiple factors when it comes to being close to God. Studying a biblical text well requires a diversity of skills for a significant variety of textual genre. Communicating effectively involves consideration of terminology, vocal variety, body language, gesture, facial expression, proxemics, etc. At least the idea of targeting our listeners is relatively simple. Or is it? When you preach, who is listening?
1. Members of God’s family. In a church setting, hopefully a significant number of listeners will be fellow believers in Christ, co-baptised by the Holy Spirit into Christ, siblings living in the forever family of our perfect Father. I have one sibling – same DNA, but we are so different! I have five children – same DNA, but they are so different! Then there’s the church – same Holy Spirit DNA, but talk about diversity!
Some believers in the church are mature saints who have travelled a long and windy path, experiencing life in all of its complexity, all the while growing closer to their Father and to the Son, by the Spirit. They know His faithfulness in the depth of their being and their identity is profoundly saturated in His love. But others are mature in human years, yet have never really matured in their Spiritual lives. They remain spiritual infants and are profoundly vulnerable, yet often these folks have no awareness of how fragile their Christianity actually is. They might be worried, or they might be bombastic and difficult to deal with, throwing their weight around and wondering why people don’t seem to respond to them as they do to others.
Some believers are in the process of maturing in a healthy relationship with Christ marked by hearing His heart through the Word and responding in the fellowship of a healthy prayer life. Their spirituality is relational and personal and responsive. Other believers are confused by some sort of speculative spirituality that has caused them to chase knowledge through books or conferences, others chase an experiential spirituality through reflective disciplines or different types of conferences. Other believers are not particularly marked by any spirituality, other than learned behaviour.
Some believers exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. There is something dynamic about their lives and there is a clear sense that God is at work in them. Other believers evidence primarily the fruit of the flesh. There is little delight in Christ to be noticed and you can’t help but wonder where they stand before God.
Tomorrow we’ll consider another category of listener . . . believers alone are complex enough though!