The Purpose of Preaching – a caution about application

I have frequently considered this issue, “the purpose of preaching.”  One seeking answers to this subject will likely find a unique response from each of the people questioned.  I am no exclusion to this multitude of voices.  The problem which I see in the arena of preaching is the deafening clamor for relevance.  I am not calling for those who publicly proclaim the Scriptures to completely ignore the reality that they are speaking to a group of people who are not members of the original audience.  It would be wise to acknowledge such a reality.  Yet, in an anxious search for contemporary application the preacher has frequently left the authority of the biblical text and arrived at the universe of his own preference and conviction.  The problem with this is that he may be wrong in his application – frequently so. 

I believe that this approach led to much of the legalism among fundamentalist churches in the past (and present).  It seems to be tenuous ground when one applies biblical texts to forbid the practice of women wearing pants, Christians going to movies, using the KJV, etc…  If professing Christians have such preferences, that is fine, just do not attempt to use the biblical text to mandate such preferences. 

As I considered this issue, the idea of preaching the biblical text in its original context, explaining the authorial intent and cultural features, would it not be suitable to allow the people with the aid of the Holy Spirit to determine how such truth applies in their everyday actions, rather than simply telling them how we believe they should apply it?  My issue is with those preachers, evangelists, and missionaries who have some consternation over “issue x” whatever that may be, and then proceed to rant about “issue x” from a biblical text (used sparingly might I add) which has nothing to do with “issue x.”  The people hear such things and frequently respond by thinking they should have nothing to do with “issue x” because some biblical text commands them not to do so (they think, because they are not really completely sure about it, but the preacher sure was passionate and convincing, so he must be right).  This approach is not helpful.

In the end, I am not saying that information without application is helpful.  I am saying that we should be careful in how and what we are asking people to apply to their everyday actions.  It seems to go without saying, that the application must actually be biblical, from the passage we are preaching.  Any thoughts?           


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