Preaching is conflict, war. It can be nothing else until the Lord returns. Why is this? Because preaching is the bold and confident proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven to residents of the earth. This world is not in agreement with the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, all preaching is confrontational, corrective, abrasive, and destructive to the status quo. To be precise, I am not saying that a preacher's delivery is necessarily to be confrontational, corrective, abrasive, and destructive --but his content needs to be, by necessity.
Our best example of this quality of preaching is the Sermon on the Mount. The tone running through the entire sermon is one of war with conventional and religious thought. Jesus is an iconoclast of the first order. His Words destroy the zeitgeist, the world spirit, and the vogue and chic philosophy of the day. "Are you mourning the loss of a loved one? You are blessed by God!" What? How can I accept this as true without destroying all that I think about what is important in life? "Do you think yourself righteous because you do not kill? I say your anger is murder." How can that be? I am often angry, as are all people. This redefines all of my social ethics.
Preaching then, always involves the preacher understanding the Word of God, or, more correctly, a small portion of the Word of God, and using it to pick a fight. How does this text correct, offend, or destroy the thinking of the kingdoms and cultures of man? How does this text correct, offend, or destroy the thinking of this church, and the individuals hearing?
This type of preaching holds true when the audience is believers, as well as the lost. Believers are finite, and so our view of God is never big enough, our understanding of His greatness is always far too confined, our understanding of His holiness, His love, His wrath, etc., etc., is always in need of improving. His Word is the sanctifying weapon that makes war on our limits, on our fleshly ideas, on our stubborn or fearful hearts.
One objection to preaching as war might be that often, the sorrowing are encouraged and the fearful comforted by the preaching of the Word. Certainly this cannot be considered war and conflict, can it? I suppose that depends on what the Word is warring against. While it might be creating comfort, it is also slaying fears and the false ideas that lead to them. To the sorrowing, despair is the enemy that invades our thoughts. Good preaching makes war on the despair, exposes it for the lie that it is, and proclaims the hope of the Kingdom of Heaven.
On a practical level, once the preacher has studied the text for the sermon, he must brood over it and consider it prayerfully. He must seek to understand how this message is a point of conflict with the people of his flock. Additionally, He must always consider how it conflicts with the thinking of the unbeliever who may be present. If he does not go through this process, even if he successfully explains the text, he has not finished, for he will not bring his people to a point of change, of action.
The fringe benefit is that this sort of preaching will spark our interest. We are made by God and in the image of God. Therefore, we, as humans understand and are fascinated by falsehood, by truth and its corrective nature, and by conflict.
Let's look at a simple example.
"....In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." --John 16:33b
A brief study of this text reveals that Jesus is speaking to His apostles on the night of His arrest. Their entire world is about to be turned upside down as they see their Master arrested. It will occur to them that the Romans with their pointy weapons might soon start pointing their weapons at them! It will also occur to them that the Jewish leaders who turned on Jesus will likely turn on them. Of course, soon they will see the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They will then see that in this world, they will indeed have trouble. They will be persecuted. They will be arrested and beaten. Then they will remember Jesus' comforting words.
Now, at what point do these words correct us or the world? Where can the preacher pick a fight?
I see several places. “First of all, to the world: If you are hearing this sermon and are not yet a follower of Jesus, make no mistake, you oppose Him, and you are in a world that opposes Him. This world claims to be tolerant, to believe that all faiths should be respected. However, this world opposes Jesus and His followers outright. This world, still jails and kills His followers. In America, Christians who take a stand will find themselves ostracized by family, criticized by culture, and laughed at by academia. And you, according to the Bible, are the cosmic enemy not only of God's people, but of God Himself! Perhaps even you have persecuted or made fun of Christians you have known! It is time to repent and believe in Jesus and join His Kingdom.”
For the believer: “Are you losing friends because of your faith? Do you feel disrespected in your class? Do you feel that all you value is valueless in this culture? Don't be discouraged, but instead cheer up! Jesus has overcome all this! You will find the joy at the end. (In this case, the message is at war with discouragement, fear, and the like).”
Or: "Are you one who believes if you practice 7 things you will have your best life now? Are you a Christian that has bought the lie that if there is suffering in this world for you then you do not have enough faith? Have you been taught that Christians don't get cancer, don't go broke, don't lose jobs, if they have enough faith? Have you believed the lie that if you obey Christ you will find favor with all unbelievers? These are all lies! In this world you will have trouble! But Christ has overcome!"
The Kingdom of God will always be at odds with the ways of man. Until the Lord comes, each Christian will be battling the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Word of God is a weapon and weapons were made for war.
Preacher, do you want to be interesting and not boring? Start by picking a fight, every single message!