A third human-centered approach is allegorical preaching. Surprisingly, allegorical preaching is widespread. For example, preachers use the story of Jesus calming the storm to talk about how Jesus calms the storms of life. They use the story of David and Goliath as an example of how we can slay the giants in our lives, like fear, cancer, or joblessness. The miracle of the wine at the wedding in Cana is used as a springboard to talk about God's provision when we are at the end of our resources. Elements of the stories – storms, giants, and wine – are taken out of the historical context and made to stand for something else in the listener's life.
The preacher must bring the text into the present. Allegorizing sections passages is a quick way to do this, but it fails to wrestle with the authorial intent and often leads to inaccurate messages. For example, the preacher who says that Jesus calms the storms of life not only misses the purpose and meaning of that text, but promises something that the Bible does not warrant. This is both unbiblical and unhelpful.
All three of these approaches come from a desire to be relevant in our preaching. Relevance is essential, but human-centered messages fall far short of what preaching is supposed to be. We need an approach to preaching that is both God-centered and relevant.
Tomorrow: presuppositions of God-centered preaching