Sometimes we have to preach something that is potentially controversial or that may not go down too well. Here are ten pointers to help when that is necessary.
1. Know yourself.
Some preachers like to ruffle others all the team. Other preachers never ruffle anyone. Know your default and beware if you are at either extreme.
2. Be so biblical the argument is with the Bible, not with you.
It is tempting to make polemic statements, but there is much greater authority if you present a solid biblical case.
3. Look for ways to deconstruct first so that the Bible answer is needed.
On the other hand, it is tempting to blast with the Bible, but it is better to show the need for the biblical case before presenting it.
4. Use story to get past defenses.
When a subject is potentially hard to take, take a lesson from Nathan’s approach to King David. He was able to present painfully personal conviction without a defensive reaction through the telling of a compelling story. Remember that effective use of narrative can bring down the defenses of your listeners.
5. Love the people.
When you bark at them, they sense you don’t love them. Then the issue will not be your content.
6. Build connections.
Jesus had some tough things to say to several of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. He did not jump straight into rebuke. He built that on a foundation of “I know you!” This can be relational, or it can be manipulative. That probably depends on your motivation.
7. Drip feed whenever possible.
Does the issue have to be hit head-on this Sunday? As someone wisely said about preaching in general, ‘we tend to overestimate what we can achieve in one message, but underestimate what will be achieved through five years of biblical preaching.’
8. Understand why they are where they are.
It is relatively easy to go after an issue, but to be effective in this pursuit we have to understand why people are where they are.
9. Don’t do everything from the pulpit.
A lot of issues in the church are complex, but we can easily fall into thinking that our only output is from the pulpit. Could you gain more traction in a one-on-one conversation?
The most important in the place of final emphasis. There is a lot that can be done outside of preaching – conversation, interaction, etc. But the greatest element of any change will come not from our confrontation of it, but from our expressed absolute dependence on God to bring about the change.