Frank Thomas, in his important book They Like to Never Quit Praisin’ God: The Role of Celebration in Preaching writes:
Many exegetes stop at the point of discovering the what message the
author intended to convey when the text was written, find points of application for our time, and begin writing the sermon. But there is another critically important step in homiletical exegesis, and that is to ask the question of meaning: How does the message of the text give assurance of grace to the existential human condition of suffering? In other words, what good news does this text bring to the experiential suffering, tragedy, and evil in the world?
Such questions as these will force the preacher to get out of the clouds of theoretical hairsplitting and come face to face with real people facing real issues. It is here, I believe, that many Black preachers excel.
It is here, however where many of the preachers who are giving “good advice” or a motivational speech fail. They may provide tools to communicate more effectively at work, and maybe even get along better with people, but when your back is against the wall and the doctor gives a bad diagnoses there is no “good news” that will transcend even my own death.
The people have come to be fed by a word from the Lord that is greater than their pains and heartaches. Please ask of your sermons, what does your sermon have to say to those who are in the midst of Satan’s grip? What does your sermon have to say to those who are facing addictions they cannot overcome? What does your sermon have to say to those who are in the midst of domestic violence? In short, what does your sermon have to say to those in the midst of real pain?
To answer those questions correctly we must exegete the text with these issues from real life on our hearts. It we do not exegete in that way, we may provide an informative religious lecture, or some good advice to excel at work, but we will not empower the people to struggle with the powers of darkness in their daily lives.