Preaching is the art of engaging an audience with the truth of the Bible for the purpose of application in daily life. A lot of preaching today strives to be immediately practical. But much of life isn’t immediately practical.
I get it. Preaching should have value for application today. In a church landscape filled with “The Christian Life for Dummies” sermons, I sometimes feel like an antiquated relic from a bygone era, channeling my inner Charles Spurgeon as I preach on the meaning of the vicarious atonement of Christ.
But life is more than a series of how-to exercises. Life is more than tasks to be accomplished. It is not a series of boxes to be checked. Here are four reasons why I think that while preaching should have practical value, that value doesn’t always come from preaching being immediately practical.
1. Christian living that is reflective of the life that Christ lived goes far deeper than how to live out Christianity today. Jesus was always talking about the coming Kingdom. He focused on its right-now aspect just as much as its to-come aspect. I want to take time out of the daily grind of goal-oriented stuff in my life to bring healing through my soul through soulful contemplation of eternity.
2. Life isn’t a series of problems to be solved. It is a journey to be lived out. When we fail to take time purely for contemplation of the divine in a non-practical goal accomplishment way, we are reminded that some things just have to be lived through. God didn’t solve Job’s problems right away. He allowed Job to grow in grace and trust through trial. Life is a pilgrimage, not a race.
3. Preaching that is always consumed with immediate practicality may overlook the character shaping aspect of corporate worship, of which preaching is a part. Character shaping takes time. It takes years and decades. Character shaping doesn’t take place in how-to seminars. Character shaping is slow work—like training a bonsai tree to grow in a certain way, not like tree trimming with a lift truck and chainsaw. It can’t happen in one setting.
4. Preaching should highlight the glory of God more than anything else. The kind of preaching that emphasizes the glory of God cannot always be immediately practical. Local fellowships should regularly gather together as the man of God proclaims the Word of God with regard to the glory of God!
Preaching must always be worshipful. Immediately practical sermons can be worshipful, but there is a kind of contemplative preaching that is missing in churches today. The kind of preaching that asks people to push pause on the daily grind and the boxes that need to be checked, and just brings glory to God.
Preaching shouldn't always be immediately practical because God is not always immediately practical. God basks in the splendor of His glory. So should we. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV).