Recently, my wife and I had the joy of bringing our second son, Nathan, into the world. Newborns cry (for those of you who are not parents yet). Nathan cries amazingly loud when he’s hungry. He desires, with unfettered passion, to be fed every 2-3 hours. God reminds us in 1 Peter 2:2 that we are to desire his Word as babies desire to be fed. I had to ask myself when was the last time I cried out for the Word of God. I think that may be a good question for our congregations as well.
I realize we live in a culture full of distractions. Unfortunately, our enemy is adept at using the distractions that surround us to keep us from desiring and ingesting God’s Word into our lives. Part of our responsibility as preachers and teachers is to whet our hearers’ appetites for the Word of God.
I first heard that expression from Dr. Kenneth Ridings, an excellent expositor and my first homiletics professor. His primary method of teaching homiletics, was preaching his best sermons to novice preachers in class. Dr. Ridings said to us,
“I want to whet your appetites for the Word of God.”
He delivered sermonic insights to his class in order to motivate us to study, pray, and meditate on Scripture so we too could learn to preach insightfully and practically. He wanted to make us spiritually hungry so that we would have to go to the Word to be fed. I’ve never forgotten his lesson about whetting my appetite for God’s Word.
I believe one of our aims in preaching is to motivate our hearers to desire the “pure spiritual milk” that is God’s Word. In that sense then, preaching is the confluence of three important dimensions.
- First, our preaching must lift up Scripture as God’s authoritative declaration to us.
- Second, our preaching must flow out of a passionate, insightful, and personal experience we as preachers have had in our study of the Word.
- Third, our preaching must deliver practical application, model good scriptural reading and interpretation, as well as motivate our hearers to personally engage and apply God’s Word in their lives.
Here are a few suggestions to us as preachers for whetting the appetites of our hearers.
- Shine a light on your study insights. Though it goes without saying, we must make time weekly for intense study and application of Scripture. Not only does this build the foundation for the content of our preaching, but we should also offer commentary when appropriate in our preaching as to how we came across biblical insights and application. We might also want to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, and blogging) as a means to shed light on our study habits for the benefit of our congregation.
- Preach in series that encourages your congregation to read and study along with your series. We should preach in series regularly that help our congregation understand Scripture and books of the Bible as a whole. We should suggest with our series ways to read, study, meditate, and memorize in the passages we are going to preach. It might also be helpful to recommend books and commentaries along with each series and make them available as resources to our hearers.
- Show and share how the practical application of Scripture is developing you as a preacher of God’s Word. Finally, if we want to whet our hearers’ appetites for God’s Word, we must assure them that the interpretation and application of Scripture can be accessed and accomplished by the Christian who is not a professional preacher. We can do this by regularly illustrating how Scripture is molding and shaping us. We can also be intentional about offering clear insights in our sermons as to how our hearers could read, study, meditate on, and apply Scripture.
The bottom line is that our congregation’s desire for and growth in the Word of God will seldom if ever exceed the example of its pastor. And if we want hearers who desire the spiritual milk of God’s Word, it is our job to deliver the Word in such a way as to make its intake desirable and effective. So let’s try in our preaching to make them hungry for God’s Word.