I’ve been pondering the issue of preaching the person. The person of Christ. The personal Triune God. If we aren’t captivated by the personal God that we know personally, then our preaching can too easily slip into instructional education and moralistic tirades. It is the person that captivates and draws listeners.
Let’s ponder a simple scale of personal encounter:
1. The moment of meeting – The truth is that as humans made in the image of a relational God, we are well attuned to each encounter we have with other persons. Within seconds we will determine subconsciously whether we like somebody. They might be a waitress, an airline check-in clerk, a salesman. It really doesn’t take long to determine our feelings about someone we meet. And those initial feelings can take a while to be reversed by further interaction. (Incidentally, as preachers we need to understand the power of our opening moments, those first seconds of encounter and introduction. But that is to get side-tracked.)
2. The power of love – Then there is the ongoing relational encounter. After the first impressions come the ongoing interaction, communication, sharing of life experiences and so on, all building a relationship so that we go beyond liking or disliking to deeply trusting (or distrusting), to loving (or the opposite). The follow-up relational interaction can be so powerful.
(Again, to get sidetracked for a second, we mustn’t be naive about the power of inappropriate interaction with members of the opposite sex—the magnetic power of interpersonal attraction has led many to compromise everything and discover the regret of the stealing power of sin. Preachers, we are susceptible!)
Getting back on track, what am I saying with all this? Well, I can, if I’m honest, express whether I like someone after moments of meeting. And those whom I’ve known and developed a relationship with, mutually loving and caring and sharing life together ... these are people I can talk about at some length, with my heart showing for them.
What does all this have to do with preaching? The second level of enthused personal connection is missing with some. Even the initial encounter response is apparently absent in some preaching. It is hard to tell with some preachers if they really like God at all. What are we to say to this?
If the God in our sights is benign, our preaching will be the same.
Rather than putting this in the negative, let me state this positively. Read God’s Word and get to know our personal and wonderful God. Then preach His Word. What a privilege.
And when we preach the Person, our preaching won’t feel like a pressure project, but will have a captivating and gripping power beyond words!