Pastoral preaching has been called “therapeutic preaching,” or “life-situation preaching,” or “invitational preaching.” I would suggest that pastoral preaching is concerned with pastoral care and, generally speaking, will address a specific theme that Christians face or have faced that they need care or preparation for. Actually, I think a lot of “pastoral preaching” is concerned with caring and preparing. The goal is to care for those who may not come to meet with you and to prepare people for situations that they may face in the future. And I’m equally convinced that pastoral preaching is and should be biblical. Unfortunately, I’ve heard a great deal of “pastoral preaching” that was neither “pastoral” or, I suppose, preaching. I’ve heard a lot of what would most certainly be “therapeutic preaching.” You know, the kind of “motivational speaking” that address felt needs and never provides God’s perspective on one’s feelings or thinking and never provides God’s solution to such problems. In those type of situations, one just becomes more depressed, despite feeling understood, because there is never a solution offered!
I am told that there are several advantages to pastoral preaching. In fact, Stephen Rummage suggests the following four advantages in Planning Your Preaching:
- Pastoral preaching heightens the listeners’ interest level in your message;
- Pastoral preaching helps fulfill the pastor’s calling;
- Pastoral preaching connects preaching to counseling;
- Pastoral preaching makes preaching personal and real.
These “advantages” are helpful to consider. I definitely agree that this “type” of preaching helps fulfill the pastor’s calling and that it certainly helps connect preaching to biblical counseling. But whether the preaching heightens the listener’s interest level or makes the sermon personal and real depends entirely upon the specific sermon and the specific preacher. Pastoral preaching is not like a “magic wand” that automatically does either of those “advantages.” But it certainly can!
Rummage also wisely offers the following difficulties for pastoral preaching:
- A man is not ready to preach pastorally until he knows his congregation;
- A pastor must be careful not to substitute psychology or moralizing for biblical proclamation and spiritual transformation;
- A pastor cannot know or accurately diagnose all of his congregation’s needs;
- An approach to preaching that is based on solving human problems will deprive the congregation of essential Bible teaching.
At any rate, all preaching should be pastoral, in my opinion. And certain sermon series that you preach may be more so than others. I recently tried my hand at such a series when I went through the “valleys” of life. I attempted to address certain obstacles that most people face and provided biblical thought towards them. Here has been my attempt at pastoral preaching:
Anyway, this idea has certainly developed more in the past year than in previous years of ministry. Perhaps that is because I’m beginning to have a better idea of who I am pastoring and what they often need to hear… and I love it!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.