on human nature and preaching

When preaching sermons, you will almost always find that there are two big parts to this task.  First there is Biblical exegesis, which is sort of a scientific method for approaching 6266820532_7d8287c270_bthe Bible.  Second there is cultural contextual application, which is a fancy way of saying, know your audience.  But it is more than simply knowing who they are it is knowing them.  Almost any seminary course on preaching will teach you these two elements.

As I was thinking through these elements, I began to ask myself why some communicators were more powerful than others.  Why are some trendy now, but others last a lifetime?

This weekend I heard a seminary professor make the point that Jesus was God’s best contextual sermon to a group of first century Palestinian Jews.  Jesus came speaking about the kingdom but used references that first century Palestinian Jews would understand.  This is a terrific point, but I made my mind wonder.  Jesus is not just relevant to first century Palestinian Jews; He is relevant to me too.  He has been relevant for over 2000 years to every culture in every corner of the earth.  While, because of the scandal of particularity he was most relevant to first century Palestinian Jews, there is something more to Him. I wonder if it is because he not only was a master at cultural context but he was also one of the greatest teachers of human nature ever.

Teachings like, “where your treasures are, there your heart will be also.”  Or, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  And countless others speak less of contextual understanding and more of an understanding of human behavior.  I think Jesus is the world’s foremost expert on human transformation and the understanding of human nature.  He, and only He, knows and can fully know why we do what we do.

It seems to me that if you’re called to preach, you’re called to more than just being a theology nerd.  Although it is fun to be a theology nerd, you must also be a student of humanity.  If you’re called to preach then you are called to transform through words.  When you use good biblical exegesis, you engage the mind and build a foundation for life through knowledge.  When you examine the cultural context you can better target those Biblical truths so that people can see how applicable it is, however when we touch on human nature people realize that they do have a nature that is at work with in them, they have instinctive, involuntary and imaginary thing about them that makes them do what they do.  I think the call and challenge of preaching comes with it quite a bit of baggage.  To study the Bible and engage in Trinitarian fellowship is to be surrounded with the Kingdom of God.  To know culture is to develop a love for humanity.    To study human nature is to understand how our knowledge and socialization drive us to making the decisions that we make.  When we have a pretty good idea of why people do what they do, then I believe that our words can then be more targeted and powerful.

This is a thought that I wrote in two different airports this morning, and it is still developing, if you are a preacher, I’d love to hear your feedback.

*The lecture on cultural context was given by Lenny Luchetti, his blog can be found here

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  • Lenny Luchetti

    Great thoughts Dave. I agree there are general but insightful anthropological norms that transcend space and time (culture). I love that verse that says “Jesus knew what was in man”…actually that verse scares me a bit but I think it captures why Jesus “spoke with authority.” His authority not only came from his insightfully intimate knowledge of divinity but also his profound analysis of humanity. Thanks for blogging and keep doing so. Lenny Luchetti

    • reclaimbeauty

      Thanks Lenny…Great time with you the last few days

  • Casey Cox

    Who gets decided if we are a preacher and therefore are qualified to reply?

    I love your thought – “To study the Bible and engage in Trinitarian fellowship is to be surrounded with the Kingdom of God.” Now the role of the preacher is to proclaim the Kingdom in such a way that others are consumed by its fire. A concept I have come to live by is that a preacher “earns” 1 minute in the “pulpit” for every hour they spend missionally being with the people of the flock. (paraphrased from Kenneth Callahan)

    • reclaimbeauty

      Great insight…At the preaching conference I attended this week, Steve DeNeff talked about spiritual authority comes from the congregation, it is borrowed authority…

      And I think, God and community decides if we get to preach…I do love Spurgen’s take on it and this isn’t an exact quote…but he said if you don’t have a loud clear voice, then you’re not called to preach…In his day, he was absolutely correct