Practically Speaking...

I've been pondering the nature of Biblical teaching and how people respond to it - more specifically, what they consider practical as compared to what is actually useful. I'm beginning to think we've got some funky expectations and standards when it comes to evaluating a sermon. I offer the following conclusions...
Truly practical preaching compares my experience to scripture, not my experience to yours.
In many preaching formats, the illustration is king. I'm not anti-illustration by any means - in fact, I'm an avid storyteller - but too often, the story becomes the point rather than illustrating the point. Practical preaching holds my experience up to the light of truth and facilitates adjustements. It reminds me that I am not okay, and if I was, I wouldn't need a God at all.

Truly practical preaching must open a door for conviction.
Anyone who points toward a standard (and therefore our falling short of it) is met with cries of "legalism!" While legalism was a very real issue for decades, it seems we have effectively swung the pendulum to the other extreme. Tolerance is the New Legalism, and to speak in regard to absolute standards is to invite indictment by the Legalism Police. I'm not proposing condemning people - I'm saying that conviction is a good thing, albeit uncomfortable. If a person is looking for psycho-solace, let them find it in the electronic sedatives offered on most every chanel. If they're looking for how to address their real needs, let them find it in our pulpits.

Truly practical preaching lands on the principle of hope.
That may sound contradictory to my first two thoughts, but it actually flows out of them. Within scripture, there is hope that God redeems. In conviction - and dealing with it - is hope that we need not remain in our ungodly patterns of behavior. A practical mesage melds the standard of scripture, our personal lack in achieving the standard, and the grace available to those who respond to God.
While we may be living in the golden age of communication - churches have tools available to them that prior generations never dreamed of - sometimes it would appear we're living in the dark ages of preaching. If network TV shut down tomorrow, some of our preachers would not know how frame a message next weekend. They would simply lose their source of creativity, dry up, and blow away.

If you're responsible for a group of people...and for delivering a message to those people....I don't care much how you frame it. The important issues about your preaching are not jeans or dress pants, polo shirt or a tie, powerpoint or a printed handout, or what you name your series (nonpreacher types - you would not BELIEVE to what extend preachers debate this sort of stuff). The important issue about your preaching is this - do people walk away changed? That takes the unadulturated power of the Gospel. If that's what your message is based on, feel free to dress it any way you like.


Marci Lewellen said...

There you go... tellin' it like it is. I love it...keep it coming

Sean MacNair said...

The important issue about your preaching is this - do people walk away changed? That takes the unadulturated power of the Gospel.

Wow. Just when I think I can walk away from your blog you keep pulling me back in :)

I like your emphasis that true conviction brings hope at the same time. When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.