Last year I wrote a post on biblicalpreaching.net entitled “Preaching is a matter of life and death.” In the good discussion that followed I made this comment – “God has communicated in His Word (and calls us to preach that Word), in such a way as to move the heart/affections, as well as informing the mind, urging the will and so on.” Beyond Bluestockings asked the helpful question – “If the moving of hearts and affections is the work of man (the preacher) then the results will surely be temporary?”
Such an important question deserves more than a quick answer . . . so hopefully this is helpful:
Thanks for the comment. You are right that the moving of hearts and affections is the work of the Holy Spirit. If we make that our task we can easily fall into manipulation and the achieving of temporary results. What I am saying is that God’s Word is not simply an information transfer from God’s mind to ours. Rather, God’s Word is that and so much more. It was designed and written to move the affections, to captivate the heart, to instill values, to draw people to God, etc. Since the Bible is not mere information transfer, but carefully written communication that functions on various levels (i.e. through word choices, sentence structure, genre decisions, etc.), our task is to faithfully preach the Bible text as it stands. That means not flattening it into mere information.
For instance, a Psalm may be highly emotive, full of moving imagery, authorial passion, etc. If we simply dissect that information and talk about it, then I think we are failing to faithfully represent the text. Rather we should present the Psalm in such a way that listeners feel the full force of the communication that is there – the images, the emotion, the passion, the truth, etc. Certainly there is explanation, but also more than that, there is something of experiencing the text as well. Thus we are to say what it says and appropriately do what it does. This does not take on the burden of transforming listeners, for that should always remain the work of the Spirit of God. However, since God is not an “information only” being (as some seem to suggest by denying any genuine affections in God), then there is no reason why we should “de-affect” the text and make it information only. Did God inspire merely the information in the Bible, or did His inspiration go much further? That is, did God inspire every word, every genre choice, every tone, etc.?
I believe our task in preaching is to be genuinely and deeply faithful to the preaching text, “re-presenting” it to the best of our ability (study ability, message formation ability, delivery ability), while always resting fully on God to achieve any life change in the listeners.