Bob Russell is one of the finest practitioners of application in preaching. In Dave Stone’s book Refining Your Style (Group), there’s a brief interview with Bob in which he talks about his approach to application: “The ideal for me is about half Bible teaching and half application. I say, ‘Here’s the point. Here’s what happened to King David. Now do you see how this applies to your life? Here’s what this Scripture says about people in the workplace. You see how this applies to your life?’ Then pretty soon, the people in the pews start anticipating that. They start looking at the Bible through a different prism because they’re seeing how it’s going to apply.
“The bridge to the modern world is over a pretty big chasm, so little examples serve as pylons. For example, I could say, ‘If somebody’s hurting, somebody’s in need, somebody’s sick, you help them. Well, that’s true; but I’d rather say, ‘Do you have a friend in financial stress? Then why don’t you slip them $20 anonymously? If you’ve got a friend who has a special-needs child, why don’t you volunteer to babysit and give them a gift certificate so they can get out from underneath that responsibility? If you know somebody with a rebellious teenager, why don’t you give them a phone call and tell them how the same thing happened to you?’
“Those one-line examples do two things. First, it gives people practical things to do. Second, it opens up a whole avenue of illustrations that flow out of your everyday life. When I was taught preaching, I was told, ‘You teach the Bible, and you illustrate the Bible.’ I think preaching has three ingredients: You teach the Bible, you apply the Bible, and you illustrate the application. That’s a big difference.”