There are two great preaching advices that I received, which I practice today. I think they are not only beneficial for communicators like myself, but also for listeners as well. It will help you understand better why I preach a certain way.
The first advice is “Preach to persuade, not just to proclaim.” In seminary, we are taught that preaching is mainly “proclaiming” God’s Word to people. There is certainly a big element of proclamation in the work of preaching. There were times when preachers could just start with “Bible says…” and people responded because the culture was already Christian or had respect for spiritual authorities. But time has changed. Modern people don’t pay attention to the proclamation unless they sound “practical”. Proclaiming abstract truth without practical application can cause only confusion.
Also, as James said, to follow Jesus is to be the “doers” of the word, not just hearers only. Jesus said we build our life on solid ground, not on sand, when we apply his words. Again, any application, how small it may be, trumps mere inspiration. The goal of preaching is application of Biblical truth, not learning of it.
The second advice is, “Improve the quality of thinking, not just the sermon.” This is not advice to prepare less for a sermon. Modern people tend to view proclamation based on ancient text as dogmatic and outdated. What sparks modern people’s interest is how well an idea is framed and presented. In other words, they are drawn to well-developed ideas based on quality thinking, not an external source of authority. So, for a sermon to be persuasive, the communicator should be able to think “along” with modern people, though he/she may not think “like” them. If the quality of thinking gets better, the sermon will naturally become more “persuasive”.
I believe the ultimate persuasion can only happen through the work of the Holy Spirit, not through a well-crafted sermon. That is why my primary work is prayer and spending time in God’s words. But the work of preaching is in vain if no one is “hearing”. Persuasive preaching draws people’s attention through “modern problem” (that feels relatable to the listener) before getting to “human” problem (universal problem of sin), which the Bible has all the answers to.
As Pastor Anthony is now more involved in preaching rotation, I am planning to take more time in studying and reading books of variety of topics, to increase the quality of my “thinking”.