Beyond Guilt – Part 2

 

Guilt is a poor motivator

 
I am continuing to ponder how to preach with a more nuanced approach than mere guilt pressure.  As I’ve written already, there is a place for genuine conviction of sin, and I am not hiding from that.  But equally, I am not just hiding in that, nor avoiding the danger hiding in a non-nuanced guilt approach.
How can we hide in a guilt approach?
I suspect some see no other way to help lives change than to pile on the pressure.  Every passage is turned into a guilt trip.  Doesn’t matter what tone the passage takes, the message will have been filtered into a guilt and pressure tone.
And what danger is hiding in such an approach?
There is an implicit danger with guilt focused messages.  I say you should feel guilty.  If I convince you, then you feel that you must change.  Guilt alone will not drive people to God.  It will drive them to despair or to efforts of the flesh.  Neither result is good.  Guilt has to come in a package with hope, with grace, with access to life transformation that has to come from God, not from self.
So, yesterday we looked at the issue of stance.  Here’s another element, perhaps an obvious one, but still important nonetheless.
The Preacher’s Tone. 
guilty as chargedToo many people think too simplistically.  As if communication is about information transfer.  But the truth is that communication involves a complex of signals, some of which can override others.  So my body language can contradict, and overwhelm my words.  So too can my vocal presentation.  Voice and body language combine in regards to the tone of my communication.
If my tone is close to that of an angry prophet, that will override the most gracious of poetic content.  If my tone is akin to that of a Victorian school master, then my words, my message, will take on a whole new meaning.
Children know this. 
If a parent says their name with a certain tone, they know they’re supposed to feel guilty.  It’s voice, expression, posture, etc.  But it boils down to tone.
Do you have a default tone that is guilt inducing?  Can you make the most encouraging passage into a pressure text?  Can you turn Psalm 23 into a rebuke for not being a good sheep?  Can you take Jesus’ yoke and burden, which are easy and light, and make them tricky to put on properly if your listeners aren’t living just right?
Let’s be sure that when we preach, it is not just our words that reflect the meaning of the text, but that our tone also reflects the tone of the text, and the tone of the God who is speaking to these people on this occasion.
Stance and tone can be adjusted to avoid a guilt-only approach.  They can be factors in a better motivational methodology.  But tomorrow we’ll zero in on a key factor in preaching to encourage and motivate.
You can leave a comment for this article on Peter’s blog.
~ Peter Mead
 
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Peter-Mead.png[/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Peter also authors the BiblicalPreaching.net website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.biblicalpreaching.net” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”http://www.cordeo.org.uk/” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

Beyond Guilt

 

Guilt is a poor motivator

 
A friend asked me how we can preach to encourage listeners apart from making them feel guilty.  He and I would both recognize the need for genuine conviction of sin, a work of the Spirit and a feature of some texts (and therefore some messages).  But I understand the need for the question – too much preaching relies too much on guilt as the primary, or even the only, change mechanism.

Beyond Guilt

Guilt is a poor motivator.  The Spirit of God certainly does bring conviction to people, to me.  An absence of conviction of sin in a life is an indication of a real problem.  But there is much more to the Spirit’s work than just conviction of sin.  There is much more to life transformation than guilt.
As I read the Bible I find myself convicted, yes, but also stirred, inspired, encouraged, enlightened, intrigued, reassured, enlivened, thrilled, calmed, galvanized, spurred, moved, attracted, delighted, renewed, transformed, changed.
God uses the Bible to change lives, and He changes lives by more than just guilt.  So how, as a preacher of God’s Word, can I beneficially engage the lives of listeners with more than just a guilt session?
Beginning with this post I’d like to offer several elements of an answer to this question.
The Preacher’s Stance. 
Where do we stand?  Guilt-only approaches tend to take a domineering and confrontational stance.  This comes through sometimes before a word is even spoken.  It shows in demeanour, in expression, in attitude.  It may be justified in terms of the authority of God’s Word, etc., but it is worth rethinking.
I would suggest a stance that is empathetic rather than confrontational, although there is a place for the latter.  I am not suggesting the preacher stands amongst the listeners as a sympathetic fellow-struggler with nothing more than shared struggle.  We do stand with God’s Word and so do have something very profound to offer.  But we also stand as recipients of that Word.
Sometimes our talk of authority can lead us to authoritarian approaches. 
Yes, God’s Word has authority and as I preach God’s Word there is a “thus saith the Lord” aspect.  But it is right here that some betray their narrow view of God and come right back to a guilt-only approach.  That is, they see God as being purely authoritarian and a guilt-approach-only Deity.
Thus saith the Lord. 
We represent Him.  How did God reveal His own character, personality, values, etc.?  On Sinai, through the prophets, in Christ?  God didn’t just come as a pounding fist.
We should consider the stance we take as one standing and speaking God’s Word, while at the same time being one standing as a recipient of God’s Word.  If our stance is simply a “lording it over” stance then we betray a worldly passion for power that reflects a twisted view of God Himself.
In my next post I’ll add another element to consider in pursuing how to preach with more than just guilt.
You can leave a comment for this article on Peter’s blog.
~ Peter Mead
 
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Peter-Mead.png[/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Peter also authors the BiblicalPreaching.net website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.biblicalpreaching.net” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”http://www.cordeo.org.uk/” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]