Lives are not transformed by to-do lists. They can help, but they remain mostly on the surface.
So many people seem to want to listen to preaching that is “applicational”. I understand the impulse.
After all, who would want to listen to non-applicational preaching? That sounds like preaching that is not relevant to my life and will not make a difference.
Actually, if we are talking about preaching that is relevant to life and genuinely transformative, then I am completely on board with that desire.
The problem is that when we talk about “applicational preaching” it can fall short of what we really need.
Here are some of the potential weaknesses:
Now, there is certainly a place for knowing what is expected of us at the end of a sermon. If a passage gives an instruction that applies to us, then we should certainly note it and look to obey it.
However, is the Bible primarily an instruction list for life? Some sermons give that impression, but perhaps that is missing something of the richness and purposefulness of God’s revelation.
When our preaching emphasizes what we must do, then the focus will tend to move toward our own willpower. Sermons that point the listener to their own discipline, their own choices, their own efforts, etc., are not the best sermons.
And I don’t just mean they are not the most theologically impressive sermons. I also mean they are not the most effective sermons.
Lives are not transformed by to-do lists. They can help, but they remain mostly on the surface. God is in the business of transforming lives from the inside out.
In order to see the full potential of any preaching or teaching ministry, I would encourage you to think about the ABCs of Application. Here is a brief explanation.