What he said was right. It was faithful to God’s Word, the exegesis was spot on, the doctrine sound a the application flowed neatly out of the text -and there was plenty of it. However, something wasn’t quite right. There was something about the tone. It seemed to miss the mark. Have you ever sat through a sermon like that? I’m sure most of us have. In fact, if we are honest, most of us who preach will also recognise that we have far too often been guilty of preaching a sermon like that. Now sometimes it is just that we didn’t quite hit it, sometimes we are tired, sometimes our own circumstances mean that we are passionate about something that is true and right for us but not for the congregation. That’s why I find myself increasingly thinking about how I exegete or read the congregation and how I exegete my own heart as well as the Bible text.
Examples I have seen of missing the mark include
– A failure in basic observation as a mixed nationality congregation are lectured on the importance of welcoming people from all backgrounds or people who live on the breadline in hostel accommodation are exhorted to show hospitality by inviting people round for dinner
– A congregation being harangued – told off by the preacher when there were struggling, suffering people desperately needing comfort
– A decent exposition of a Bible passage but a failure to call people to repentance.
I remember being told as a young preacher that the word “sermon” has the idea of a “sharp stab.” I’ve never checked out whether that is true or not but certainly, preaching should be sharp, it should cut to the heart, it should convict. When we fail to do this, then we either beat people over the head with a blunt object or we suffocate them with fluffiness.
When I preach at Bearwood I am aware that people are coming in from all sorts of circumstances.
– There are those who are enjoying life by finding delight in the Lord. They are going on in their faith and they need to be encouraged to keep on with this.
– There are those who are comfortable, enjoying the pleasures of life and distracted from the Lord. They need to be called back to him
– There are quite a few who are overwhelmed. They feel powerless because of bureaucracy. They live with anxiety and fear. They desperately need to find hope in the Lord.
I could go on. Preaching to the Affections means that we need to pastorally know our congregations and to live our lives among them. It means that I need to get the tone of the sermon right not just the content.
 Note I think all should be exhorted to hospitality but there are different ways of doing this depending on circumstances.