Preaching should involve a confrontation between God’s perspective and ours. That is not to say that our preaching should feel confrontational as a default. But there is always something deeper going on than we tend to think.
We think that we see our world the way it is. We think that we see ourselves the way we are. We think that the way we think is well motivated and accurate. But the Bible challenges that.
Too easily we will justify ourselves and excuse ourselves, but it is not just how we see self that is an issue. We assume that the world as we see it is the reality as it actually is. But actually the Fall of creation into sin mars and skews everything.
When God speaks through His Word He does not simply reinforce our perspective. We might think that we understand our place in the world, and that we know what life is all about. And with this great insight, we tend to think that the Bible needs to offer us some tips for engaging life better so that we can be more successful in our various endeavours. But what if God is not excited about your self-help project? What if He is doing something altogether deeper, bigger and infinitely more wonderful?
As preachers we must not simply harvest the imperatives in a passage and serve our listeners by creating a to-do list for them. We are called to so much more. We need to help them encounter God’s thoughts, God’s heart, God’s values, God’s greater and richer reality that is entirely right-side up in our upside-down world.
This means that as we preach, we have to be thinking bigger than just the immediate words in the text we preach. We have to be thinking bigger than the experience of our listeners in the lives they lead. We must have a more God-given canonical, global and eternal perspective so that the reality we preach stretches and challenges and confronts the small, local, me-focused world of our listeners (and ourselves . . . hence preparation should always feel profoundly and spiritually challenging).
This is not easy, but dialogue with God and with friends in the preparation process can be key to avoiding offering small morsels to satisfy small perspectives. How is the next text you plan to preach rocking your world and stretching your life perspective?