Practical Application In Preaching -- By: Joel R. Beeke

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 04:1 (Jan 2012)
Article: Practical Application In Preaching
Author: Joel R. Beeke

Practical Application In Preaching

Joel R. Beeke

David P. Murray

Today, much of what is preached on Sunday mornings falls short of biblical preaching. We hear academic lectures, colorful storytelling, or moralistic lessons, but not true, biblical preaching. J. I. Packer once said that preaching consists of two elements: teaching plus application. Where those two elements are missing, “something less than preaching occurs.”1

In Why Johnny Can’t Preach, T. David Gordon estimates that in Reformed and Presbyterian churches “less than 30 percent of those who are ordained to the Christian ministry can preach an even mediocre sermon.”2 The failure to preach well is particularly evident in preachers’ application of Scripture to people’s lives. And, as Geoffrey Thomas says, “Preaching that lacks application is the bane of the modern Reformed pulpit.”3

Many preachers who are called to Christ’s work in His church are misguided about applicatory preaching. Because of this, we need to seriously reflect on applicatory preaching. When we fail to apply what we preach in a biblical way, our people are left starving for the truth. Sinclair Ferguson writes, “We live in an age when the primary need is for our people to be instructed in the teaching and application of Scripture.”4

In this article, we will explore what applicatory preaching is, why the church needs applicatory

preaching, prerequisites to applicatory preaching, general principles for applicatory preaching, basic subject matter for application, and forms and methods to use in applicatory preaching.

What Applicatory Preaching Is

To explain what applicatory preaching is, we must first recognize the difficulty of answering this question. An effective sermon is like a multi-faceted jewel. All of a sermon’s parts work together to give it richness, beauty, and completeness. A sermon cannot be complete without expository preaching, doctrinal preaching, Christ-centered preaching, experiential preaching, and practical preaching. But we must limit ourselves in this address to examine just one diamond-like facet of a sermon—its applicatory element. William Perkins (1558-1602), the great Puritan of Cambridge, defines sermon application as “the skill by which the doctrine which has been properly drawn from Scripture is handled in ways which are appropriate to the circumstances of the place and time and to the ...

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