I have observed three approaches to preaching that lead to human-centered sermons.
The first approach is therapeutic preaching. This preaching focuses on people's felt needs such as how to build relationships, handle stress, manage money, raise children, and resolve conflicts. In a therapeutic culture, the pressure to preach this way is intense.
Therapeutic preaching, however, comes at a cost. It is often not based on a vision of God and the gospel. It can lead to a self-help approach and narcissism. At its worst, it can resemble a Christian version of pop-psychology, or what one person calls "chicken soup for the Christian life." This type of preaching brings to mind "the image of Jesus calling Lazarus from the grave", write Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk. "Most preaching is about how to cope with a life wrapped in grave clothing that is never removed."
Haddon Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching, recounts hearing a sermon on how to overcome procrastination. He knew they were in trouble, he says, when the first point was to buy a DayTimer. "The Bible is a book about God," Robinson writes. "It is not a religious book of advice about the 'answers' we need about a happy marriage, sex, work, or losing weight. Although the Scriptures reflect on many of those issues, they are above all about who God is and what God thinks and wills. I understand reality only if I have an appreciation for who he is and what he desires for his creation and from his creation."
tomorrow: a second human-centered approach