We're facing huge questions about why people are not applying what we tell them. Gallup did a survey that tells us when people claim to be born again, their good behavior actually degenerates. Those who claim to be born again have a higher incidence of drunken driving and divorce than the rest of culture. The incidence of abortion and drug use is not different from the rest of culture among those who claim to be evangelical. So people who say they believe the Scriptures have great difficulties, apparently, applying them.
We need to do application for the sake of our own credibility
One reason we need to be doing application in preaching is for our own personal ethos. You know these terms: ethos, logos, pathos. Ethos is the perceived character of the speaker. Logos is the logical content, the verbal content. And pathos is the emotive content. What would Aristotle say was the most powerful of these three? Ethos. If somebody speaks simply but you believe them to be a person of good character, you listen to them more than to somebody who is eloquent but whom you don't trust. Ethos is more powerful.
The two things that most make up ethos are credibility and compassion. People rate us in terms of our ethos based upon their perception of our credibility and compassion.
Credibility is determined by knowledge and realism. We expect pastors to know facts, but we also expect wisdom and realism. If I as a preacher say, " If you're going to be able to walk with God, you need to learn some Hebrew, " I might as well have thrown the sermon out the window, because the average person thinks that would be nice, but it's unrealistic. So we may be intelligent, but we need to base ethos upon knowledge as well as realism. Much of what happens in application is saying, " I'm not just knowledgeable about exegesis. I know the world you live in. I am able to be realistic. "
Ethos is not just based upon credibility but also compassion. The perceived character of the speaker is based upon a perception of altruism, that you care for people other than yourself. If the perception of the person preaching is, He wants to make an impression, rather than, He's caring for the people to whom he speaks, people will listen. Often they will listen in droves. But they will not trust him. They will find it entertaining, but they will not trust him until they perceive that he cares more about the listener than himself.
What communicates that? What says, " You care about me; you take it out of the ethereal world that makes you impressive, and you put it in my world, where I can do something with it " ? Ethos is tied to the ability to do application, first of all, that is realistic, and second, that is courageous.
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