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Jesus had what many present-day church members might call a bad habit-at least, if practiced by their pastor. He aimed his messages at his hearers.

Jesus didn't talk to people who weren't present. He didn't direct pungent preachments at faraway political leaders. He didn't preach about the terrible sinners who never came within earshot of his voice. He didn't expound on theories related to a nation that existed two thousand years previously.

Jesus spoke to his audience. His sermons fit the occasion-situation preaching, you might call it. As far as he was concerned, those who needed a word from him on any given occasion were the ones who saw his lips move, who heard the inflections of his voice, who noticed how he gestured toward them.

But that kind of preaching gets us into trouble with our listeners. That kind of preaching pricks hearers' hearts; it is always burning someone's ears. Its words penetrate personalities. Such sermons disturb the status quo, sometimes inciting hostile response. ...

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From Issue:Fall 1986: Unity
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