Warren Stewart, in Interpreting God’s Word in Black Preaching, writes:
He or she who interprets and preaches the Word must identify with the Word in such a way that the Word will both support and challenge those to whom the message is directed.
Note that the word is allowed to “support and challenge.” Again, this is a call for a holistic and balanced message. Too often, we like one side or the other. There is the preacher who always emphasizes the “unconditional love” of Jesus without ever moving on to the ethical response to that Love. In contrast, there is the preacher who always emphasizes what the people are not doing, but never supports the hurting in the congregation. There is the prophetic preacher who thinks of himself as a “prophetic voice” to clean up all the mess that is in the congregation, but never feels the need to pastorally apply the balm of Gilead to the real pains of living in this world. And then there is the one who is so inwardly focused that there is no message of how to live in the Kingdom of God while still in a fallen world.
In short, the Bible challenges and comforts us. The Bible assures us that God is with us in the pains and hurts of life, but also challenges us to live the life that God has saved us into. The Bible lets us know that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning, but it also challenges us to live a life of service. The Bible teaches us that God loves us, but it also teaches us to love others.
Great preaching recognizes that God has called the preacher to be both a prophet and a priest. To both speak the oracles of God and apply the hope that God has purchased us with God’s Son’s blood. Great preaching will not fall into the trap of only challenging, neither only comforting, but will have a full ministry that does both of these and more as we look toward that coming Kingdom.