Preaching to Their Faces

by Richard Mansel, managing editor
listeningface.jpgI once heard a sermon delivered at a congregation I was visiting and the experience was enlightening.
I noticed that the speaker had lost his audience because he was speaking too fast, with material that was over people’s heads. A disconnect was occurring and the gospel message was suffering.
The speaker was hurried and assuming that the audience knew what he did in terms of doctrine, vocabulary and terminology. Naturally, they were somewhere else, since their minds were not engaged in the sermon.
The phrase, preaching to their faces, comes to mind. What is the relationship between the speaker’s words and the faces of the listeners?
God gave Jeremiah a very difficult assignment. He told him to go and prophesy God’s Word to Israel, a people who would not listen. He told the prophet, “They will fight against you, [b]ut they will shall not prevail against you, [f]or I am with you” (Jeremiah 1:19, NKJV).
Likewise, God told Isaiah to go and preach to a people who would not listen (Isaiah 6:1-10).
God told Jeremiah to be bold in his message as he declared the prophecies of the Almighty. “Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:8). Later, God said, “Do not be dismayed before their faces.” (Jeremiah 1:17).
When we stand and proclaim God’s Word, we must never put the will of the congregation above God’s will. God’s power and greatness are unmatched (Psalm 66:1-7). He is incomparable (2 Samuel 7:22) and unequaled (Isaiah 40:12-14). God’s will takes priority above everything (Acts 5:29).
Listeners can have itching ears and seek a corrupt message (2 Timothy 4:3-4). “Do not prophesy to us right things; [s]peak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:10).
The gospel existed long before their weaknesses and whims (Psalm 119:89).
If we are not careful, we will become addicted to the approval of the audience. If so, we will do anything necessary to make the people like us. In the process, we will likely lose any hope of changing lives for Christ.
There is another way that we can look at preaching to their faces. As we stand to proclaim the gospel, we need to be aware of our audience and guide them through the message we are delivering. Their eyes and body language will often tell us if they are involved in our lesson or
Preaching is “making the saved feel saved and the lost feel lost.” The message needs to reach them or the Word has no hope of piercing their hearts (Hebrews 4:12).
As preachers, we must try to be knowledgeable about the human mind and be able to read faces. They are a barometer of the penetrating nature of the Word of God. Very few people hide their emotions. Instead, their faces display most of what is going on in their minds.
An unheard message is of little use. We have a sobering responsibility to lead our listeners to the place where God’s message intends for them to go. To aid them in making application, we can bring great blessings.
Let’s remember that their faces are gateways to their souls.

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