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How to Preach to the Heart

Most pastors do an ardent job of trying to faithfully preach from the Biblical text.

We spend hours in biblical and exegetical study and preparation for each week’s sermon. But when we get in the pulpit, we typically offer our wonderful insights about the text(s) then segue to what these observations may have to do with our lives, our community, and our world. Amen.

The 4-H program promotes faithful stewardship and life skills. The four H’s stand for head, heart, hands, and health. Many preachers are good at preaching for the head, and often, we also preach for the hands. But rarely do we preach for the heart which may well be why we have a certain lack of health in the body of Christ. The thing is that with all of this new information we share, as wonderful as it might be, it rarely creates new hearts.

To preach for the heart means a number of things. First, the preacher needs to imbue trust from the listener. A preacher could be saying all the right things so as to move an entire nation to faith, but if they are not trusted it is all for naught. Trust is your biggest commodity as a pastor. Guard it with your life and do all you can to sincerely cultivate it. Part of building trust is to realize that the office itself no longer holds the kind of trust it once did. Clergy were once among the most trusted figures in society. Sadly, that is no longer true. To build trust one needs to live what they preach. They need to be sincerely “Christian.”

Preaching for the heart is to always preach “from within,” not “from afar.” The congregation must be made to see where it is that the Word of God touches down in their pastor’s life and experiences, even those that may be relatively uncomfortable or unpleasant. If the sermon has not touched the preacher, it will not touch the listener! This is what gives integrity, authenticity, and credibility to the message and helps others to see the incarnational nature of the gospel.

When we are trusted, this allows us to preach with passion and we can demonstrate the liveliness of our faith, as well as the vulnerability of our humanity. It is at this point that the Christian leader becomes more real and approachable and can then serve as a reliable lens through which to see God’s saving work among God’s people.

But we are not the only lens through which the Gospel is magnified. By telling stories of redemption, life-change, and struggles in faith from the lives of our community of faith, we allow our people to see God’s saving work actively demonstrated in our midst.

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