Balance Is Vital Key

by John Meador

As preachers, we're on a quest to connect our people with the agent of transformation-the Scriptures. The quest is made more difficult by our culture, by the attention span of our people, and by our limited time. While we have the seeds of change available to us, how we plant those seeds in our peoples' hearts will be a critical decision.

I remind you of an important word for us to know that helps us in our quest-and that word is "balance." The desire and need for balance in our preaching is what compels us to insure we have the biblical content at the same time we have relevant communication. To be both biblically-based and culturally relevant, three things must be present. 

First, an in-depth understanding of God's Word, which is brought out of a habit of time with God and His Word, is non-optional. If you don't have this, your lack of it will place you on the sidelines, not in the game, in this quest for transformational preaching. Oh, people may like what you say, and you may stimulate them in some way, but transformation will take place in spite of you, instead of because of you. Our last article treated this subject.

Second, balance is forged in the realm of relationships with real people who struggle with real issues. One of my seminary professors made a statement 25 years ago that sticks with me today. "The most important word in the English language is the word relationship.'" He's right. Everything good in life comes through relationships, and I bring this into our preaching mix because real relationships with real people help us understand what people are asking and how we can answer their questions.

Now, I'm not saying you have to be a counselor to be relevant. I am saying that those preachers who have no real relationship with the people they preach to will be seen by those people as being too out of touch to be relevant. 

Being out of touch with people can hurt us in the pulpit. It can really hurt us. I remember some of the criticisms of the church in the 60s, and how people felt that the church was too remote from what was happening in our country. We were in the Vietnam War, and our population was struggling with all the issues that encompassed, yet the church was silent on the issues. America was also plunged into the midst of a sexual revolution-and again the church seemed to be ignorant of what people were thinking and doing.  We can't afford another era like that in the church! We were, to a large degree, out of touch.

On a more personal level, people are immersed in complicated problems financially, relationally, internally, and corporately-how can we connect with them apart from our relationships with them?

We know that God speaks to all issues through His Word! Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, picked up his pen and wrote powerful reproofs and warnings to a wandering Corinthian church. No words were withheld-no subject was taboo. Because he knew them, he could speak with relevance to what they were doing. The same Holy Spirit works today through us as preachers.

A preacher friend of mine said to me the other day, "I bring up the subject of sex in my messages regularly."  When I asked why, he said, "I pastor in New York City, and this is what bombards them day and night.  To not treat it as a common subject is to be irrelevant to them." He's not saying that sex is the main subject matter, but he is saying that they, like the Corinthians, need to constantly have sex put into proper biblical perspective. He's relevant in that sense.

Here's the point: to be relevant, we must be involved with our people. There are several ways I do this.

1. I maintain e-mail contact with a large number of people.  Yes, it is a huge consumer of time. And yes, I could delegate that to someone else. Being able to hear from our congregation and guests, on the other hand, allows me to hear how something has impacted them and lets me in on what they are facing from day to day.

2. I try to listen to people and "hear" between the lines. 

3. I have a feedback team who gives me great insight into my messages each week and a few staff members that are unafraid to give constructive criticism. 

4. I mentor people, and in those mentoring relationships I am privileged to hear the "real story" of what is happening in people's lives.

These are places to begin. The bottom line is to let your relationships guide you as you pray, read the Scriptures, and prepare to speak in a transformational way. 

Our next column will tackle the third major point: balance is completed when we learn to build bridges of communication so that real truth meets real life issues.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad