Beyond Guilt – Part 2

This week I am pondering how to preach with a more nuanced approach than mere guilt pressure.  As I’ve written already, there is a place for genuine conviction of sin, and I am not hiding from that.  But equally, I am not just hiding in that, nor avoiding the danger hiding in a non-nuanced guilt approach.

How can we hide in a guilt approach?  I suspect some see no other way to help lives change than to pile on the pressure.  Every passage is turned into a guilt trip.  Doesn’t matter what tone the passage takes, the message will have been filtered into a guilt and pressure tone.

And what danger is hiding in such an approach?  There is an implicit danger with guilt focused messages.  I say you should feel guilty.  If I convince you, then you feel that you must change.  Guilt alone will not drive people to God.  It will drive them to despair or to efforts of the flesh.  Neither result is good.  Guilt has to come in a package with hope, with grace, with access to life transformation that has to come from God, not from self.

So, yesterday we looked at the issue of stance.  Here’s another element, perhaps an obvious one, but still important nonetheless.

2. The Preacher’s Tone.  Too many people think too simplistically.  As if communication is about information transfer.  But the truth is that communication involves a complex of signals, some of which can override others.  So my body language can contradict, and overwhelm my words.  So too can my vocal presentation.  Voice and body language combine in regards to the tone of my communication.

If my tone is close to that of an angry prophet, that will override the most gracious of poetic content.  If my tone is akin to that of a Victorian school master, then my words, my message, will take on a whole new meaning.

Children know this.  If a parent says their name with a certain tone, they know they’re supposed to feel guilty.  It’s voice, expression, posture, etc.  But it boils down to tone.

Do you have a default tone that is guilt inducing?  Can you make the most encouraging passage into a pressure text?  Can you turn Psalm 23 into a rebuke for not being a good sheep?  Can you take Jesus’ yoke and burden, which are easy and light, and make them tricky to put on properly if your listeners aren’t living just right?

Let’s be sure that when we preach, it is not just our words that reflect the meaning of the text, but that our tone also reflects the tone of the text, and the tone of the God who is speaking to these people on this occasion.

Stance and tone can be adjusted to avoid a guilt-only approach.  They can be factors in a better motivational methodology.  But tomorrow we’ll zero in on a key factor in preaching to encourage and motivate.

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How Will You Touch the Heart?

We have probably all heard people attempting to distinguish preaching from teaching, or even preaching from lecturing.  Typically there is some reference to preaching being more impassioned, touching the emotions, etc.  To be fair to the teaching and lecturing professions, the good ones know that to be effective they should do more than merely transmit information.  Nevertheless, today is Sunday, so let’s keep the focus on preaching.

When we preach we do not merely transmit information gleaned in our study time.  We speak from the heart – a heart touched by God’s Word, moved by God’s Spirit, a heart shaped by the personal experience of God working the passage truth into our lives.  We speak from the heart – the heart of God, for He did not inspire the canon to merely give us a repository of truth statements from which to inform ourselves.  We speak to the heart – the heart of listeners desperate for a word from God’s heart.  They may be interested in information, they may not.  But we speak to hurting hearts, empty hearts, longing hearts.  We speak to the hearts of people whose real need is probably not the need they feel and are distracted by, but whose real need can only be met by God Himself.

Preaching should be truthful, accurate, informed, solidly Scriptural, etc.  But it must do more than merely inform.  We preach as persuaders, influencers, spokespersons for the living God who is not a deistic disconnected deity, but a passionately concerned and involved holy lover of souls.  So today, what is the plan?  How will you preach not only from the head to the head, but from the heart and to the heart?

Stowell’s 4 Power Dynamics

Joe Stowell, in a session on preaching, listed four power dynamics that are critical for preaching transformationally, that is, preaching for changed lives.  Nothing new here, but a helpful reminder for us all:

1. The Preacher’s Life – This is number one for a reason.  Consider the true value of our integrity, our walk with Christ, our willingness to apologize when necessary (and periodically it is for we all fail).

2. The Text – Do we need any comment here?  After all, this site is about Biblical preaching!

3. The Context – Not the hermeneutical overarching principle for Bible study, but the context in which you preach.  Stowell pointed out that no church would continue to finance a missionary who refused to consider issues of culture, language, etc.  Yet many preachers allow themselves the same nonsensical freedom when it comes to the ministry in the pulpit!

4. Clarity – If the feedback stated is “Wow, that was deep!” then the message should be translated as “I didn’t get what you were talking about!”  Be clear.

Simple stuff, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs these reminders.