SO the second thing about preaching that I think about is this.
What was the author trying to tell the people who would read the letter?
Now in most cases we call this the author’s intent.
However, for years now I have called this the pastoral burden. What do I mean?
That passage was written for a particular group of people for a particular reason. Whether it is the Old Testament or the New Testament, each passage had a reason for its existence.
And it is that word right there: reason. That makes all the difference in the world.
You see you can take a passage, look at the Greek or Hebrew, parse the sentence, draw your arcs, create your flow diagrams, and even chase out your typology. But without the reason for that text’s existence, the data you gather from these various tools, instruments and rules, leaves you without a cohesive whole.
I have called that cohesive whole: the pastoral burden. After proper exegesis, built on proper hermeneutics, bringing this passage into today can only be done, when we discover what the pastoral burden is of the passage.
I ask questions like:
- What spiritual good was expected in God’s people, who read this passage?
- Upon hearing this passage and the doctrine of this passage, what part of the life of God’s people was this aimed at? Was it aimed at them as a whole or individuals? Was it aimed at their thinking or their behavior?
- In what way does Paul use this doctrine right here?
An example might help. Romans 8:28-30 is a passage that so many people love. This passage speaks at least in part about the doctrine of predestination. But the passage is not simply giving a good theology lesson. That doctrine is being used for a specific reason namely way Christians should view and handle suffering.
Another way to say what I am saying is this: the doctrine does not end on itself, but serves the greater purpose of drawing our heart to worship through living life pleasing to God.
This was Paul’s pastoral burden, and when we preach I think a sermon should share the same pastoral burden as the writer we are interpreting. If we don’t, then I think we miss the chance to help God’s people see how practical doctrine really is, and we miss the change to show them how to read God’s word rightly.
So what is the pastoral burden of the passage?