“Affective” Preaching!

In a lot of British evangelical preaching, there is a focus on having ‘memorable’ points. The test of a good sermon has become whether or not a listener can recall the points, 1 week or even a month later. There is obviously some benefit in this approach. It will be helpful for truth to be memorable. People are more likely to discuss and reflect on truth if they can remember it. But there may be an even more excellent way…

Some years ago I remember someone (John Piper?) speaking on this subject at the EMA and they made a helpful comparison to music lessons. The aim of a music lesson is not that a week later you can remember you need to press this finger in order to get that note. You actually want the knowledge to have become internalised – you don’t remember the process of learning it necessarily, but you will forever know that pressing this finger has that result.

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. I have just finished reading, and thoroughly enjoyed Marsden’s awesome biography of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards, famously, is known for the rigour and ruthless logic of his preaching. But here is one of his comments on the subject:

The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind at the time of it, and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered.

As Marsden comments – “Preaching, in other words, must first of all touch the affections.”

We must never lose sight of the fact that more is going on when we preach than just the transfer of information. We trust and pray that God is at work, by His Holy Spirit, who will be at work in our mind, our hearts and our will.

1 thought on ““Affective” Preaching!

  1. I vaguely recall someone likening hearing a sermon to having a wash. I know I washed this morning (or last Sunday), not because I distinctly remember the experience, but because now I smell all fresh and clean (in my opinion).

    Or something like that.

    Of course, a revealing test for a preacher is whether he can remember his own memorable points the day after…

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