In most cases, a preacher will be preaching to a mixed audience of both genders and people of widely different ages and levels of both spiritual knowledge and maturity. Given this great diversity in his hearers, for whom should he preach?
Should a preacher construct and deliver his sermon in such a manner that his entire audience equally will be able to follow and understand all that he says? Although such a goal may initially seem a worthy thing to aspire to, is such a goal really what a preacher should aspire to? What’s more, how attainable is such a goal and what would a preacher have to sacrifice to attain such a goal?
In order for young children and even less mature believers to understand his entire message to the same extent that adults who are very mature believers would understand it, a preacher would have to greatly simplify nearly everything he would say. Such simplification would make thorough and accurate handling virtually impossible for much of Scripture.
My current thinking is that the preacher should not aim for equal understanding for his entire audience. Rather, he should preach as much of the text as he can as thoroughly as he can, making sure that his major ideas are so clear that as many people as possible will understand them.
In his development of his message, however, the preacher should not overly simplify what he says merely for the sake of simplicity. Such an approach may often result in many of the more mature and knowledgeable believers in his audience profiting little from his preaching.
Although God intends for all believers to profit from His word, it is impossible that all of them will profit equally. Believers at different levels of understanding will profit at differing levels from the Bible; the preacher should understand that the same would be true for his preaching as well.
The preacher, therefore, should aim to profit believers at all levels, and the best way of doing that is to preach thoroughly and accurately whatever text or texts he preaches. Beyond that, he should pray that God would illumine and enlighten the minds of his hearers.
Having prayed, prepared, and ministered in such a manner, the preacher should trust God to give understanding to his hearers at levels that will be suitable for each one.
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