John Carrick, in his recent book The Imperative of Preaching, urges the preacher to consider the various grammatical moods that we find in Scripture, and to reflect these faithfully in his own preaching.
There is, for example, the indicative mood. This is the mood of declaration, or assertion. The New Testament is full of gospel indicatives, of declarations of what God has done. The preacher should sieze these, explain them, and announce them.
Then there is the exclamative mood. This is the mood of wonder and doxology: “How…!”; “What…!”; “O…!” The Bible writers do not merely declare the truth: they feel it. Preachers must do the same, and so appeal to the heart as well as to the head.
Another is the interrogative mood. The New Testament teacher pose many kinds of questions – probing questions, rhetorical questions, and so on (think of the ways in which our Lord used questions in his teaching!). Questions can be used to make people think for themselves, to arouse interest, to promote discussion, and so on. They too are indispensible for the preacher.
Then again there is the imperative mood. The gospel gives direction and calls for a response. The unbeliever must repent and believe. The believer must clothe himself with all manner of good works.
Let me as a preacher ask myself: Does my preaching reflect this array of moods, all of which are plentifully found in Scripture? If I deal on only in indicatives, my preaching will be cerebral and may leave people spiritually and morally unchanged. If I neglect the exlamative mood, then my preaching will fail to motivate and will fall short as a contribution to worship. If I neglect interrogatives, my preaching may lack the power to fire the mind and the imagination. If I over-emphasis imperatives, my preaching becomes moralistic.
Preacher should, in particular, look at the balance between indicatives (what God has done) and imperatives (what we must do in response).
In his review of Carrick’s book, David King remarks,
The gospel comes to us in the indicative, whereas the call to respond to the gospel and live in light of it comes in the imperative. The whole of Christianity encompasses both moods. Consequently, preaching is sub-Christian that emphasizes what God has done in Christ but fails to say what people must do in response. The corollary is true as well: preaching is sub-Christian that emphasizes gospel-shaped living apart from declaring the gospel itself.