It is common enough to equate preaching that challenges people to be thought ‘prophetic’ (and preaching that encourages people to be thought ‘pastoral’).
But prophetic proclamation is not a heralding of people’s need to improve their behaviour (nor is pastoral exhortation assuring people that they’re doing okay).
Prophetic preaching is an invitation to turn and meet the God who we were heading away from, but who has pursued us instead of cutting us off.
It’s fine for preachers to call out human sinfulness, screwed-upedness, bias, and idolatrousness. I do so frequently, which helps me feel better about my own moral compromises. Yet we are not free to belabour human depravity without stressing that we are sinners to whom God in Christ has turned, “For us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it. Moralistic, judgmental preaching “is often mistaken for prophetic preaching,” says Richard Lischer, moral hectoring rather than proclamation. The good news is not that we might make moral headway but rather that the God from whom we sinners turned away has come out to meet us.
Preachers Dare, Will Willimon, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2020, pgs 12-13.