Early on I observed that some people really seemed to take a form of pleasure from preaching that made them feel bad.
It seems for a particular type of church goer (and even some genuine Christians) they didn’t differentiate between feeling bad and repentance.
Feeling bad (in either a general or specific sense) appeared to be enough, rather than the repentance that brings an encounter with the transforming grace that sees a change in practice which is the outworking of sanctification.
So, I’m not completely sold on Will Willimon’s contention that ‘listeners universally resist sermons whose intent is to build guilt’. Perhaps the tendency of US folk is toward a more idealised autonomous self-identity that only thrives on affirmation, people in Australian culture don’t always need to be affirmed – they can generally settle for other folk being identified as worse than them.
Anyway, Willimon’s point about the fruit preaching strives to see is completely true.
Listeners universally resist sermons whose intent is to build guilt. Not only does Jesus tend to forgiveness rather than guilt, but also preaching that provokes guilt backfires as hearers are encouraged to become more introspective, more obsessed with themselves and their histories, more egotistical, not less. We white people ascribe far too much power to our egos and are narcissistic enough without encouragement from the preacher. The default Christ position with regard to guilt is to confess sin, offer it up, and then allow ourselves to be unburdened by the justifying grace of God and to be spurred on by sanctifying grace in our acts of contrition.
Will Willimon, Who Lynched Willie Earle?, Abingdon, 2017, pg 108.