The “yeah, but” aspect of the integrative sermon always provides a very powerful moment. I love that time in the sermon when the preacher is able to identify with the listener’s objections, taking up the listener’s voice in ways that he or she might not even be fully conscious of. This is one of the most powerful ways to engage listeners in the preaching process. By speaking for the listeners, as one of the listeners, the preacher gains a sense of solidarity with the listeners, thus deepening the communication transaction.
This ‘solidarity’ is legitimate, because the preacher is more listener than communicator in the process, if we understand the preacher truly to be God. If we appreciate that it is God who is speaking, then the preacher need only search his or her heart to discern the objections and assumptions that hinder his or her own appropriation of the message. By honestly describing his or her own misgivings, the preacher, as the first listener, establishes common ground with the broader group of listeners, who are all together trying carefully to hear from God.
The truth is, that if it is God who is speaking, then we are all going to have to overcome things in order to respond faithfully. To pretend that this is not the case is to preach from a naiveté about human nature that is misguided. Preaching, mediating as it does the voice of God, will always challenge our self-focused presumptions. The listener’s opening gambit is almost always “so what.” Having heard “what’s what” the listener will almost always need to overcome the “yeah, but” in order to get to the “now what.” The preacher who owns this challenge will almost always preach with a greater sense of engagement by the listeners. his or her own appropriation of the message. By honestly describing his or her own misgivings, the preacher, as the first listener, establishes common ground with the broader group of listeners, who are all together trying carefully to hear from God.