Everyone lauds preaching that connects with the congregation. Many imply that the key to connecting is giving applications. But is it possible to be totally applicational in a message, and yet completely unengaging?
I believe it is possible. If there is no personal warmth between preacher and listener, and if there is no vertical warmth between the preacher and God, then a highly applicational message could easily become an instructional rant based on a text. Listeners will not feel connected with the preacher or the preaching. They may just feel got at.
The problem is that if we think being relevant and applicational is all it takes to connect, then we can overlook the fact that communication is best offered in the context of interpersonal warmth. Our listeners need us to have that reality in both dimensions!
A good friend of mine has a stock of great sayings, one of which goes, when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is so true in preaching. A chilling of the temperature in our personal walk with God will show in our communication with others. Even the most winsome of texts can become an opportunity to hammer on the duty theme again, for example.
Instead of just plugging in applications, let’s pray about what it really takes to connect with listeners. This will include our manner and delivery, sermon content and presentation of the Bible, as well as pastoral connection outside of the pulpit. People need preaching that engages them more than just preaching that gives application.