So far we’ve pondered a radar needed in textual study, and another needed in considering our own theological assumptions. As preachers we mustn’t go too far without thinking of the listeners, so here’s another early warning system to ask God to develop in you for your growth as a preacher:
Radar 3. Resistance Radar (in your listeners)
It is naïve to think that clearly explained and relevantly applied Bible passages will automatically result in changed lives. More mature preachers prayerfully ponder where their listeners will resist what the biblical text is presenting. This radar can only be fully developed by knowing the people you are preaching to each week. Perhaps this radar has two tones of beep.
A. The first is a human nature beep (i.e. people everywhere tend to resist in this regard). It doesn’t matter what the culture, or the education levels, or the demographics of the community, or the age of the listeners . . . some truths are universally resisted or twisted. Grace is a prime example. It is not a lack of understanding that makes us resist God’s grace, it is our fallenness. We don’t want God to be God, and we want to be God. But to receive God’s grace without some effort at payment or cooperation, that is to admit that I am not God and I need God. We must not think that this does not apply to those who have received Christ and joined God’s family . . . our flesh still rebels and seeks to corrupt God’s grace into an exercise in shared effort. It may be as illogical as a starving person turning down food, but in a post Genesis 3 world, it makes perfect sense for us to resist or twist grace.
B. The second is a specific humans beep (i.e. this congregation, or this individual, will resist this message because of such and such). When you know the people in your church, then you can better spot where the resistance will come. Maybe it is not grace, the example I gave above, that is the point of resistance for some in your church. Maybe it is the notion of close relationship with God. Perhaps the notion of a loving father is frightening to some. Maybe holiness has been perilously pickled in the perspective of some. Perhaps legalism has turned some listeners into collectors of instruction, rather than seekers of wisdom.
Grow in understanding of humans in general, and people in your church in particular, so that this radar becomes well tuned and messages can more effectively hit home.