Much e-ink is pixelated over the need for applicational relevance in our preaching. There is good reason for this. Too much preaching is totally disconnected from real life and therefore lacks the relevance that biblical preaching should always feature. But adding applications is not as easy as it sounds.
For instance, simply culling imperatives and encouraging people how to live their lives “more biblically” may in fact be undermining God’s work in peoples’ lives. How so? If our applications merely add burdens to their to-do lists, thence may well be adding a new law, rather than pointing people to Christ. In fact, we may be pointing them away from Christ and to themselves – which is by definition a Genesis 3 serpentlike thing to do in our pursuit of supposedly Christlike impact.
So how to effectively apply in our preaching is important, and perhaps it is a subject for another post or two. But I want to throw an idea into the mix with this post.
What if, instead of focusing on how this message relates to their lives on Monday morning in the office, or Tuesday evening in the family argument, what if we sometimes refocus our timings in application?
Instead of just thinking about relevance of the message to the rest of the week, as important as that is, let’s also be thinking about the applicational force of encounter in the moment of preaching. That is, how can I show God revealed in Christ during this message so that my listeners might encounter him and in so doing, be changed.
- In the Gospels, people were changed when they met Christ. Yes there were those moments where he said, “go and sin no more” of course, but that was not the exclusive applicational thrust of those encounters. People were changed by meeting him.
- In our lives we too easily slip into self-directed living and living as if Christ is absent. The preaching moment is a key moment for encountering God as he is revealed in the Word. It would be tragic to miss him for the sake of adding to our to-do lists.
- By pointing listeners to the person of Christ who reveals the Father to us, we are giving believers and unbelievers exactly what they need. Jesus is good news for us all, and we all need it regularly, because we all need him continuously.
- All true application should flow from the inside-out, which requires a heart-changing encounter with God’s love, not just a code-of-living change by encounter with applicational law. That sentence deserves some unpacking, but let’s leave the thought for now – there is a difference between outside to in change (i.e. here is the list, live by it), and inside to out change (i.e. having met Christ, how is his heart-work in you going to work itself out in your life?)
Application deserves a lot more attention in our thinking as preachers. However we do that, let’s not miss the important applicational force of meeting with the God who reveals himself in the written Word as it is preached.