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So often, it’s the little stuff that makes the biggest impact.

This is true in my home as I am blessed to enjoy delicious meals on a regular basis. I often ask, “What is in this?” when enjoying a new dish or a new twist on an old dish. My wife will usually give one-word answers: “Lime.” “Cardamom.” ”Turmeric.” “Honey.” “Pesto.” I am always surprised. I am always delighted. We rarely eat bland, ordinary, lifeless meals—for this I am daily thankful.

Like cooking, preaching can become bland.

It can fail to have that freshness worthy of the gospel table. There are many reasons why. One could identify a lack of preparation, lack of understanding, poor delivery, and shallowness. We would not disagree that undercooking the homiletical meal is a problem. But there is something else that can make preaching bland: the deadly reality of not being personally wowed by the subject.

I have seen this in some otherwise terrific sermons. Guys can be exegetically sound, communicate with clarity, illustrate with profundity, and then at the end of the sermon, it tastes like grandma’s meatloaf: somewhat filling but not so memorable.

On the other hand, we can probably identify a sermon we have heard when the guy was working out of a passage with passionate engagement. And as he was doing this, he was wringing out the text with personal adoration and joy.

In other words, the text had gotten into him! The man went from a tour guide to a resident, a lecturer to a preacher! He went from bland to flavor by seasoning the sermon with personal reflections of the infinite value of Christ, his beauty and unsurpassed glory.

I am convinced this is an indispensable aspect of preaching.

As leaders and examples (1 Pet. 5:4), we must model hearts that are truly moved by the Christ we proclaim (Col. 1:28-29). After all, if we aren’t moved to worship … why would anyone else? One might say, “But I am not an emotional person. I don’t get excited.” That’s fine. I am not talking here about volume, but depth.

 

Preachers cannot be content to glide along the surface of the biblical ocean, telling their hearers of the great treasures that lie under the boat.

Instead, they are to dive down into the depths of the water, see it themselves, marvel, and then come up and exclaim, with seaweed on their shoulders, as one who has themselves seen: “This is who God is!” “This is what Christ has done for your souls!” It is easy to be sterile when we are dry and in the boat—preachers need to get wet, get deep, and come up and preach like they have seen something!

Jonathan Edwards is famous for many things; among them is his statement about the necessity of the heart being moved during the preaching of the Word of God:

“The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered…Preaching, in other words, must first of all touch the affections.” (Jonathan Edwards: A Life, Marsden, p. 282)

I think you see this type of devoted diving into the gospel-deeps through the Apostle Paul as he considers his own sinfulness and the grace of Christ (1 Tim. 1:12-17); the personal nature of the gospel (Gal. 2:20); the staggering implications of loving adoption and reconciliation because of the work of Christ (Eph. 1:3-14); and the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit to conquer, subdue, and arrest a sinner’s heart (2 Cor. 4:1-6).

It’s everywhere.

Effective preachers are those who have been personally moved by the text before they attempt to see others moved by the text.

From a guy who has to fight every single day to have my heart moved by the gospel, hear my plea: Don’t be content to just give your hearers a comprehensive tour guide through a passage; connect the dots to show the glory, grandeur, and greatness of God in it so they can join you in marveling at the glorious view.

It’s a little thing, but it makes a big difference for you and the Church.

Erik is a pastor at Emmaus Bible Church (EmmausBibleChurch.org), a church plant south of Omaha. Converse with Erik on Twitter at @erikraymond.

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Rod Dewberry

commented on Oct 8, 2012

Agree fully with the need to be personally impacted by the passage ... Additionally we need to labor through prayer and relationship to identify imitiately with where our audience lives. A message can be passionately delivered showing clear evidence of the preachers personal attachment to the material but still lack because it's call to application is not relevant to situation of hearer.

Mark Nielson

commented on Oct 8, 2012

Good thoughts Erik! I find it very difficult to preach a text that has not first preached to me. Digging deep often takes time and energy but it is worth it. If we can't preach with passion ....we need a fresh look at the grace and love of God

Debi Grenseman

commented on Oct 8, 2012

Jonathon Edwards' passion for the Lord is what built his sermons and what made them effective as it is said that he often read them.

Mark Drinnenberg

commented on Oct 8, 2012

Yes, yes, yes! What you said about showing "the glory, grandeur, and greatness of God" in the passage is so crucial. Preaching is so often reduced to a bunch of stuff we're supposed to do. Such a sermon may be delivered accurately and passionately, but it can come off as nothing more than a man-centered pep talk about the need to measure up. But when "the glory, grandeur, and greatness of God" show through in the message, the result is more likely to be worship of the God whom we are privileged to know and serve.

Anthony Seel

commented on Oct 8, 2012

Great article, Erik. Rod makes a good point about the importance of relevancy, but the glory and granduer (sp) of God are always relevant to every audience.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Oct 1, 2015

There's the old saying, "If the preacher points one finger at you, she/he's got three pointing back at himself/herself." If we are touched by the text, our listeners are more likely to be touched by what we say.

Andrew Latorcai

commented on Oct 2, 2015

Preach what you practice not practice what you preach.

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