What part of you didn’t need to be in church yesterday?

When I leave a church service, I ask myself the question: Which part of me need I not have brought here today?

(This is a post for church-goers, with particular relevance for preachers.)

The quotation is from Donald English: Stuart Briscoe refers to it in one of his contributions to the book, Mastering Contemporary Preaching, where he talks about the importance of addressing mind, will and emotions in preaching.

Yesterday morning I was preaching from Nehemiah 8 – the original “Watergate”, if you will. The chapter marks a key stages in the spiritual renewal of the people who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in the 5th Century BC. The focus of the chapter is the people’s encounter with the Law of God. At the start of the chapter they send for Ezra: he is to read to them from the Law. In an atmosphere of keen anticipation and reverent worship, he reads for 6 hours: his reading is supplemented by the work of Levites who mingle with the congregation to make sure that everyone understands what they are hearing.

We saw that all three parts of human personality – mind, emotions and will – were addressed in that episode.

  • Minds – as people are able to understand what is read to them.
  • Emotions – as people respond, first in sorrow and then with great joy.
  • Will – as people put into action what they have heard.

I suppose that there are probably preachers whose temperament, training or gifting means that they are better at addressing one of these areas of human personality than the others. Some of us are primarily didactic: our listeners leave with pages of copious notes. Others appeal primarily to emotions: listeners’ response is measured particularly in terms of what they have felt. And some appeal for action: listeners leave with three steps needing to be implemented, or some other course of specific action to be carried out.

Back to Donald English.

  • For those of you who were on the receiving end yesterday, which part of you need you not have bothered to bring to church with you? Could you have left your brain in the car park, for example? Or were you glad your brain was filled, but you have no idea what to do in response?
  • To those of us who were preaching: how well did we address our hearers as whole people, rather than just minds to be filled, emotions to be stirred or a will to be challenged?

No doubt there will be sermons that lean in one direction more than the other (depending, for example, on the nature of the passage being preached), but over time what do you need to be doing to ensure the holistic impact of God’s word?

For more on this from Stuart Briscoe, read here.


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