By Leroy Forlines
There have never been so many people with well-fed bodies and starved souls. Yet many have abandoned the pursuit of material prosperity to search for something to satisfy their inward hunger. They are searching for significance, something real, something to believe in that is larger than personal gratification.
Man is an emotional creature. We hear so much about emotional problems that we think emotions are all bad. The very fact that we hear so much about emotional problems should tell us that emotions are important. Emotions need to be satisfied and given proper direction.
Conviction of sin involves not only an acceptance by the mind that sin brings eternal death. It also involves a realization of this truth in the heart. In conviction, a person feels deeply about sin. This means that we must not only address men’s minds with the fact that sin brings death; we must also address their hearts with the ideas of sin and judgment.
The heart must also be addressed with the saving truth of the gospel. It is only when the heart is made ready with the truth of sin, judgment, and salvation that a person can exercise his will to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Any attempt to make a decision for Christ without a prepared heart will be fruitless. The feelings of joy and sorrow are realized in the heart. Satisfaction and dissatisfaction are registered in the heart. Communication must take place on this level. It is when people’s hearts have been blessed that they will be asking for more.
How do we reach people’s hearts? We will be able to reach people’s hearts when our own hearts have been reached. What stirs one heart will stir another heart. What will bless one heart will bless another. The abstract presentation of the truth may be important, but it is only when the truth is communicated through experience that it will have the greatest impact upon people.
People need to know not only what God has said, they need to see what God has done and is doing. It is for this reason that people are moved so much by a good testimony. Truth that is experienced has life. Great revivals have always been accompanied by confessions and testimonies. The preached Word is an absolute essential, but we also need the benefit that comes from sharing spiritual experiences. The church needs the blessings of the testimony of the person who gets saved in a service. We also need the benefit of the open and public confession of Christians. Confessions often speak to people who were not affected by the sermon.
All preaching should be autobiographical. One way this can be done is by testimonial preaching. Back in the days when preaching was strong with testimony and weak with content and knowledge, some of us became too critical of testimonial preaching. We need to keep our emphasis on content in preaching, but we also need to return to more of the testimonial element.
Preaching is also autobiographical when the preacher is proclaiming truth that he has experienced though he may not do so in the form of a testimony. There is a ring of authority and reality when we are proclaiming truth we have experienced. Let us accept the challenge of hungry hearts. Let us speak to hearts with that which has spoken to our hearts.