Preaching: More Than Teaching

The Heart Is the Target: Preaching Practical Application from Every Text Good Christian preaching certainly includes doctrine – who God is, who we are as humans, who Jesus is, and so forth.  The early church was devoted to the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2.42).  But preaching is more than just teaching a doctrinal truth.  It is also aimed at changing God’s people in various ways (Rom. 15.4, Col. 1.28, 2 Tim. 3:16, 4:2, Heb. 4:12-13, etc.).  I have to admit, as a preacher, that this would be an easy vocation if all I had to do was teach people doctrine (which is sort of what I thought when I was a young preacher)!  The hard part is preaching it in such a way that God’s people see how his Word is applicable to and practical in all areas of faith and life.  [Questions I now ask are ones like these: How does this doctrinal truth matter to the woman who just had a miscarriage?  What does this teaching mean for the school teacher who just lost his job?  How does this truth speak to the lonely teenager in the pew? And so forth.]

I agree with Murray Capill’s discussion of this topic:

“If the goal [of preaching] is solid biblical teaching, then a sermon full of the truth always comes up trumps.  But if the goal of expository preaching is that God’s Word changes lives – converting sinners and sanctifying saints – then, all of the sudden, the stakes are much higher….  If the point of preaching is that people, through the Word of God proclaimed by the preacher,, hear the very voice of Christ in a life-impacting way, then far more is called for than biblical faithfulness.  Application is required.”

“Effective expository preaching takes place when biblical faithfulness and insightful application are inextricably bound together.  One is neither substituted for, nor overshadowed by, the other.”

“Clearly, preaching that aims simply to teach the Bible aims at too little.  Preachers should never aim at less, but the real goal is far greater.  In expository preaching, the message of the biblical text is spoken afresh to God’s people today by the preacher in such a way that those who hear the message sense that God himself is speaking to them and is dealing with their lives.  From beginning to end, the congregation hears a message that is both from Him and for them.”

Capill also quotes Dennis Johnson, from his book Him We Proclaim:

“The purpose of preaching is not only to inform or even to elicit assent to its truths.  Preaching God’s Word produces change in those who hear it, and the change is not merely intellectual or academic.”

Capill again:

“Lecturing is about passing on information; preaching is about transformation.”

As I mentioned earlier on the blog, I highly recommend this book on preaching: The Heart is the Target.  It challenged me, helped me write and deliver sermons better, and is continuing to stimulate my thoughts and practices in these areas.  Indeed, “the heart is the target” in solid biblical preaching!

shane lems
hammond wi

5 thoughts on “Preaching: More Than Teaching”

  1. I was meditating this morning on this idea as I was inwardly griping about people leaving their unclean dishes on the counter instead of putting them in the dishwasher, and I was contemplating a public rebuke (which being translated, is “outburst”).

    Not a good way to start Saturday in the home.

    So when it occurred to me (was it the spirit?) that a sermon had been preached in December about speaking edifying words, I remembered that repentance is a change of mind, and (thank God) refrained as the Word operated. The change was intellectual and my will followed.


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