Whole Life, Whole Sermon Application (Capill)

The Heart Is the Target: Preaching Practical Application from Every Text As I’ve mentioned before, Murray Capill’s The Heart Is The Target is one of my favorite preaching books since it is all about sermon application.  Thankfully I had good seminary training in Hebrew, Greek, exegesis, and interpretation.  But application in a sermon is something that is best learned by experience and comes with time, prayer, feedback, and hard work.  Capill’s book is a good tool to help a pastor work on sermon application.  In the opening section, Capill talks about holistic application.  I appreciated this section, so I’ll summarize/edit two of his three points below:

  1. Holistic application is concerned first with ensuring that the entire message is applicatory in thrust.  The applicatory task is too large and important to be confined to a few minutes at the end or a few asides along the way.  The entire sermon must be shaped as a message for God’s people today.  All the explanation of the text, of which there may be a considerable amount, is done with a view to this.  The structure will be chosen to serve this end.  The illustrations and examples are to aid this.  The level and depth of instruction is determined by this.  The entire message is shaped with a view to people coming away from the preaching event sensing that God has dealt with them in a profound way: he has addressed, challenged, convicted, comforted, and changed them.  …The goal is not only that they understand the text better, or that they have picked up a few tips for living, or that they have merely enjoyed a great message.  The goal is that people sense that they have met with the almighty, holy, gracious God and that they have heard form his timeless Word a timely word.  That is the overall impression of the sermon.
  2. Second, holistic application is concerned with addressing the whole message to the whole person.  Too often application is addressed only to the will.  We think that application is the bit that tells us what to do.  But a holistic view of application recognizes that God’s Word also impacts how we think and feel.  It addresses not only our actions but our heart attitudes.  It speaks not only to our relationships with God but also to our relationship to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us. …It addresses life as it really is in all its dimensions, bringing the truth of the text to bear on people’s spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and social well-being.  It persuades the mind, convicts the conscience, and stirs the passions.  It presses the truth against life so that people are enabled to know it not just in their heads but by experience (p. 25-26).

Murray Capill, The Heart is the Target (Philipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2014).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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