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Problems of Practical Preaching

Have you ever heard; we must give people practicals when we preach! If we don't tell them how to apply the word then what good are we really doing when they walk away with some pie in the sky idea, but don't know what to do about it tomorrow?! So we hear many "3 point" sermons, sometimes spelling out nifty acronyms that stick in our heads like an 80's one hit wonder, that end with a: "here are the 2-3 pracitcals to walk away with today". And while some of these things can certainly be helpful and definitely have their place, they can also come with great dangers, especially when used predominately. "Our task is not only to display God's point but to instill God's logic - how he gets to that point." As preachers (and we are all preachers to one extent or another as we carry out Jesus' commission to his disciples - c.f. Mat 28:18-20; 2 Cor 5:18-21) we are to help people not only know what a biblical truth is, i.e. don't be anxious or afraid, but if we don't help people know why that is God's heart, mind, and will for our lives it will be much more difficult for us to actually not be anxious or afraid when the situation arises. "Sermons that are abstracts of Scripture may properly summarize a biblical truth, but they are unconvincing. They do not reorient our thinking. We may know the bottom line, but we don't know how to live what we know. Without a truth trail, people cannot find their own way to the outposts of truth in their own hearts. Sometimes laying down that truth trail, showing the step-by-step thinking of a text, simply cannot be done in twenty minutes", or through a nifty acronym or a series of zingy one-liners. "The bible spends much more time on shaping the spiritual mind than commanding particular behavior. We need far more training in the ways of grace, of spiritual perceptions, and of what God is really like than we do in how to communicate with our spouse. And while communicating with our spouse well is a great thing and will benefit our lives greatly, understanding the glory of Christ is far more practical than you (or your listener) might imagine. Properly preached, every sermon based on a passage of Scripture (not a 3-point sermon based on the preachers own agenda - well intended or not) is fundamentally practical. Every author of Scripture wrote to effect change in God's people". This is the goal of the Holy Spirit, by living and acting in us, and in His work in the creation of the Scriptures (2 Pet 1:21; etc.). 'Truth trail' preaching, the careful and persuasive exposition of Scriptural thinking, shapes ready Christian minds for the everyday decisions unscripted in Scripture. And thus Christians are prepared not only for works of service but genuine maturity as well (c.f. Eph 4:11-14). For instance, when we face an ethical dilemma at work or a discipline problem at home, our minds walk the truth trails we have learned, and we are able to reason our way, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to a biblical conclusion, even when no verse of Scripture directly addresses our situation (which the older we get as Christians, seems to be ever increasing). "In order to do this we must distinguish between various types of implications from the text. Implications may be necessary, probable, possible, improbable, or impossible. For example, a necessary implication of 'you shall not commit adultery' is you cannot have a sexual relationship with a person who is not your spouse. A probable implication is you ought to be very careful of strong bonding friendships with a person who is not your spouse. A possible implication is you ought not travel regularly to conventions or other places with a person who is not your spouse. An improbable conclusion is you should not at any time have lunch with someone who is not your spouse. An impossible implication is you ought not have dinner with another couple because you are at the same table with a person who is not your spouse. Too often we hear preachers give to a possible implication all the authority of a necessary implication, which is at the level of obedience. Only with necessary implication can you preach, 'Thus saith the Lord'." Practical application is quite necessary to preach to modern hearers of the word of God, but it must be done with great care and integrity, otherwise it can be fraught with dangers, including outright (albeit often unintentional) heresy. *Excerpts taken from Robinson: The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching


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