Preach to the Affections, Don’t Manipulate Them

Should preachers aim for the affections? Is this even possible without resorting to manipulation techniques? In a new roundtable video, John Piper, Voddie Baucham, and Miguel Núñez—all Council members for The Gospel Coalition—explore differences between “working the crowd” and awakening authentic, God-honoring emotion.

“As long as preaching unpacks the greatness of God, the emotions should be moved,” Núñez observes. Faithful exposition, then, is a excellent way to cultivate godly affection and safeguard against squalid manipulation.

A bored preacher misrepresents the God he proclaims, Piper adds, since God is not boring. Moreover, he explains, “the difference between emotion and emotionalism is whether you’ve awakened it with truth.”

Baucham references a complaint sometimes voiced in more traditionally emotional (e.g., black and Latino) cultures that emphasizing truth and theology amounts to “denying your culture, your heritage, your ethnicity.” But the call to awaken affections with biblical truth is not culturally specific. As Piper quips, “I want to be known as the best black preacher there ever was.”

Watch the full 12-minute video to hear these three preachers discuss Grand Canyon moments, when God looks boring, and more.

Preaching to the Affections from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

  • the Old Adam

    The Word of God, when rightly preached (law and gospel) will bring about in the hearer that which God wills. “The Word does not return void.” No manipulation by the preacher necessary. And it may be counter-productive and act as an agent of ‘emotional blackmail’.

    • Chancellor Roberts

      The heart (the seat of emotions) is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked! We have no business trying to preach in order to appeal to the emotions. As for the criticism about “denying your culture, your heritage, your ethnicity,” the Christian’s culture, heritage, ethnicity are those of the kingdom of God.

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  • Alvaro Rodriguez

    Great advice. Very instructive. Beside the faithful exposition of the Scriptures and a majestic view of God, I would add in order to targeting the affections during preaching: 1) Absolute dependence in the work of the Holy Spirit during the preaching because He is the power of God making real, effective and powerful the exposition of the Word of God and He is whom affect, change and move the heart 2) Being the first in being affected, enjoy, live and feel deeply the truths that I’m preaching 3) Targeting and exhort to pursue the specific affections the Bible define we need to wake up and be alive for God such as joy, fear, brokenness, delight, passion, devotion and more 4) Prepare my heart and my message to preach with awe, reverence, seriousness and all which means be before God

    • Chancellor Roberts

      Where in the pastoral epistles did Paul ever instruct that preaching was supposed to awaken particular emotions in people? Where did Jesus ever tell the disciples to go into all the world and awaken particular emotions in people? Where (this one’s a criticism mainly of Pentecostals) does the Bible say to judge how (or whether) the Holy Spirit is “moving” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) by how much of an emotional frenzy pastors and so-called “worship leaders” whip the congregation into?

  • Jason Raven

    Excellent topic. I have experienced both sides of this negatively, as in where he said about manipulating the people without presenting God, and also preaching being done with little belief in the importance of it. At times I have looked around and seen the congregation just looking disinterested, as nothing more than mere INFORMATION was being presented to them. It was not delivered in any kind of way that would aid their TRANSFORMATION.
    It is difficult to sit under preaching ministries that do not honour God and His word in the way explained here by our brothers.

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  • Gerald Harrison

    I agree with all 3 men. If we preach to the intellect, we create legalism. If we preach to the emotions, we create manipulation. We need to preach to the people God as WE see Him (using the “Grand Canyon” analogy). Once WE as preachers “discover” the awesomeness of God, the people will see that also. When that event occurs, we as preachers will fade into the background and Christ will be exalted.

    THEN our job will be done.

  • Ken

    Engage my mind with God’s Word (not your own) and my emotions will follow… I’m grateful for these three men!

  • Paul

    I’m so glad Pastor Voddie opened that can of worms at the end there and I hope other videos and articles on TGC will continue to open up dialogue about ethno-cultural backgrounds in our churches and what pastors and laypeople can do to faithfully minister to them.

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