What Is the Role of Humanity in Preaching?

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There is a certain element of humanity in preaching.
There is a certain element of humanity in preaching. (Lightstock)

Some believe that preaching preparation is where the preacher goes off to talk to God with Bible in hand. Then God gives a message to the preacher. Then the preacher comes to the people without altering that message.

Touching or changing the word that came from on high would be tantamount to lying about what God said.

I am certainly mindful and hesitant to use the terminology of “God said.” Or, in more common vernacular, “God told me to tell ya.” Such language can be difficult and problematic when we are not even sure that God necessarily desires what we are about to say.

Who the Preacher Is Plays a Role

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While I honor that concern, I do think that we must recognize that there is a human component to the preaching moment. This human component informs our preparation and even aids in our presentation. The preacher’s understanding of the struggles of the congregation aids us in the determination of which of the great themes of the Bible to emphasize. It aids us in the preparation.

Our individual humanity plays a role in what it is that we are to preach. If your humanity was irrelevant, then why did God choose you to preach His message? There was something about your history. There is something about who you are that made you the proper vessel for the word to be presented.

The People Play a Role

Let me also say that the people play a role. Yes, as stated before, their concerns help to guide sermonic choice. When the preacher visits and talks to the congregation, the preacher learns the issues that they are dealing with.

The preacher may realize that the people need to hear about God’s sovereignty. Or maybe the people need to hear about God’s grace. And yes, maybe the people need to hear about God’s justice. In any case, if you are going to have a relevant pulpit, it will address the issues and needs that emerge in the congregation itself.

But more than that, the people even aid in the presentation of the message. Their responses in the preaching moment help to guide the preacher in the preaching. Like a schoolteacher that can sometimes see in the eyes of the students a need for more examples, the preacher can also determine when an illustration or another text might hit the spot.

God Does Have a Role

So, yes, the people play a role, but this is not to deny the role of divinity in the preaching process. It was God who inspired the original writers of the text that we use. In addition, God inspires the preacher as she or he attempts to understand the text and also to interpret the needs of the people.

In addition, it is God’s Spirit that inspires and guides the people as they have come to the church. It is God who is guiding in their life and leading them to see their need for the message that is to come.

The Preaching Moment: Owned by God and Humanity

So we can see that God is indispensable but that humanity plays a role in the presentation, reception and living out of the message that you will preach. In essence, the sermon is not merely the preacher’s work. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, the people and the preacher in a mysterious combination.

One of my homiletics professors said that a sermon is not what you write down; a sermon is only what is presented in the preached moment. I would add that that moment is a product of God, the preacher and the people. All have a role to play, and all are contributors to the preaching moment.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds an M.Div with an emphasis in homiletics and an M.S. in computer science. Visit Sherman at soulpreaching.com.

For the original article, visit soulpreaching.com.

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