Alan Nelson has written a helpful article in the recent edition of Preaching Magazine, entitled “Spiritual intelligence: Improving the productivity of your preaching (without necessarily improving your preaching).” Using the parable of the soils in Mark 4:3-8, he makes the case that preachers need to spend as much time in soil (or audience) preparation as they do in seed (or sermon) preparation. His argument is based on the following, rather convicting, statement:
Anyone serving in ministry more than a decade understands the frustration of wondering whether our people are getting it. Board members gone wild, staff implosions, betrayals, bickering, mediocre stewardship, church hopping and the pettiness we see in our congregations make us wonder how effective preaching and teaching really are. While Bible conservatives may cite watered-down content as the cause, luke-warm spirituality is also rampant in our tribes, disguised by pious utterances and camouflaged in doctrinal parroting.
The bottom line is that most Christians, in spite of great preaching and teaching, merely transition from spiritual Pampers to Depends. They never grow up. They confuse longevity in church (chronos) with maturity (kairos). Is crux of the problem the overwhelming power of sin, the underwhelming umph of how we preach the gospel; or could there be another factor we’re overlooking? While I’m all for better preaching, more effective communication and continual honing of expository skills, most of us would do well to assess how we’re doing in soil preparation.