We’ve all heard this from Homiletics profs, District Presidents, and well-meaning pastors. The more you get to know your people, the better preacher you will become. The more you will know how to apply God’s Word to their lives. The more of a sense they get that you know who they are and what they are dealing with, the more apt they are to listen to you.
I actually think the opposite is true. The more you know your people, the more you hold off on saying things that might offend because you know that one person’s children have left the faith, and that another person is mad at you for changing the bulletin covers. You know who hasn’t been to church for 10 years, who struggles with alcoholism and addiction. All the more reason to hold back out of fear of personal offense when you preach. I think some of the best sermons I have preached have been the ones for pulpit supply when I didn’t know any of the people. That’s also, probably, why everyone likes it when I have a supply preacher here. He comes and blasts away, so to speak, without concern for offense. It is fresh to them. I think some of my best sermons were preached during my first year here, before I began to worry about offending the people with the Word of God. Since then how many times have I gotten to a point in my sermon that I know will be offensive and skipped over it. Have mercy upon me, O God, a wretched and unfaithful servant, more concerned about what men think than with what the Word of God says.
This was inspired by a recent post on preaching at Gottesblog.