It has often been my experience as a preacher that when I preach the law, it comes off as being somewhat generic, not really describing the vices of my particular flock. I suppose this may be one of those “You’ve got to know your people” moments, but I was hoping to come up with something a little more theological. I’ve been at this for about 5 1/2 years in the same place, and I still struggle with knowing what exactly to preach to the people. I mean, take my Keokuk congregation. Most of the people are seniors. And I know that they sin, it’s just that I don’t exactly know how. Oh, there have been moments where I have seen it first hand. But it all stays pretty well hidden. It always seems like it would come off as contrived to talk about lust or gluttony in that congregation because I think that most people would wonder who I was talking about. It also seems pointless to preach against things like despising God’s Word to people who actually made the effort to get their butts to church when there are so many who don’t. Is it ever out of place for a pastor to praise people in the pews where they have demonstrated a sturdy faithfulness?
Perhaps some of the vices that older folks face would include pride, jealousy, greed, laziness, apathy, and bitternness. I’m not old, so I really don’t know. I can tell you what people my own age probably deal with. I can think of what my own vices are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else is caught by the same things. I wish I knew better how to diagnose the “ills” and “sicknesses” of my congregations, because if I could, my preaching would probably be much more “relevant” (although I hate that word) and the Gospel would undoubtedly be sweeter. What say you experienced preachers? Any tips? Clues? How does a pastor diagnose the vices of his congregation so that he can preach both Law and Gospel better?