3 Ways to Keep People Listening to Your Sermon

Preaching is tougher than ever these days. For one thing, we can’t assume that people come to our churches with a basic understanding of the Bible like they may have in the past.

But it’s also tougher because of all the media we interact with on a daily basis—from television to email to social media. It seems like someone is always trying to sell us something or convince us about a new idea.

Just open your email, and you’ll likely see a full selection of pitches asking you to buy anything from lunch to a new fishing pole to a vacation. Turn on the television, and the pitching from commercials continues.

Because of this, when unchurched people hear you preach, they assume you’re trying to sell them something. They believe you’re trying to sell them on religion.

That’s not your purpose, but your listeners often don’t know that.

Every week you’re preaching to people who are more skeptical than ever before.

You used to be able to turn up the volume when you had a weak point and keep people’s interest that way. But you can’t do that anymore. It won’t work.

People don’t want you to preach at them. They want you to talk to them. That’s how you keep their attention.

Here are three ways to keep people listening to your sermon:

1. Be open about your struggles and weaknesses.

Don’t try to hide the pain you’ve experienced—or are experiencing right now. Be transparent.

It’s called confessional preaching, and it can increase your credibility. Your confessions will encourage others when they’re going through tough times.

I remember one time, as I preached on anger, I told the church, “You know, it bothers me that sometimes I say the most hurtful things to the people I love the most, such as my wife and kids. Does that bother anyone else?”

Now, I could have just told people that they should be nicer to the people closest to them. I could have made it a command, but that would have immediately put my listeners on the defensive.

When you start with a confession, people will follow along because they see you as someone like them. Your confession will help your message resonate with authenticity and authority.

One key to effective communication is the ability to drop your mask and share real emotions. People will catch your heart. You don’t get this when you yell at them. You get it when your preaching allows others to see what’s going on in your life.

2. Share how you’re making progress.

People grow best through models. Several times in the New Testament, Paul tells readers, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I used to read that and think I could never do it. It sounded egotistical.

Paul wasn’t saying he was perfect. If you have to be perfect to be a model, we wouldn’t have any models in the world. Frankly, I’d rather have people following me than following someone who isn’t honestly trying to follow Jesus. And so now, I don’t apologize for trying to be a model for others.

We need to follow Jesus’ example in incarnational preaching—where the Word becomes flesh. The way we communicate has changed. Our message isn’t validated by the text alone. It’s validated by the messenger.

Most of the people you’re preaching to aren’t asking, “Is the Bible believable?” They’re asking, “Are you believable?” They want to know whether you have any credibility because if you don’t, they won’t listen to you even if you’re holding up a Bible as you preach.

Our message, on a weekly basis, should be something like this: “Here’s how God got me through another week.”

If you’re not ready to model your message, you’re not ready to preach it.

3. Say it in an interesting way. 

I actually work hard on preaching in an interesting manner. The Bible says, “When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive” (Proverbs 15:2 GNT). It’s foolish to bore people with the Bible.

Too many preachers get stressed out about the idea of entertaining people as they preach. Do you know what the definition of entertainment is? Capturing and holding the attention for a period of time.Do you want your preaching to do that? Of course you do—and you shouldn’t apologize for it! Making your sermons interesting doesn’t mean you have to do a song and dance; rather, it means you help people understand that the Bible is relevant to every little detail of their lives.

To the unchurched, dull preaching is unforgivable, and there is no reason for it. Our message is too important to deliver with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.

The problem with a boring message is that your hearers won’t just think you’re boring. They’ll think God is boring.

How do you preach in a more interesting way? It’s not about your charisma. You can learn to do it. Start with these three practices.

– Vary your delivery. Nothing is more boring than a monotone preacher who gets stuck on one speed and volume and never comes up for air. Vary the speed and volume of your preaching to make your sermons more interesting.

– Don’t make a point without a picture. People love stories. Pull them from your life. Pull them from the people in your congregation. Pull them from the news.

– Make people laugh. Humor is good for people. It makes a painful truth more palatable. It creates positive emotions like joy and happiness. By the way, you don’t have to tell jokes to be funny. The best humor is usually found in real-life stories.

Every week you get the opportunity to preach God’s Word to people. It’s an extraordinary opportunity. Keeping people engaged in your sermon is how you can get God’s Word into the lives of your listeners, and God’s Word will transform their lives.

That’s certainly worth the effort.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Importance of “One Time” Sermons

I remember the first time I preached a sermon, though it’s unlikely anyone else does. In fact, I’m actually relieved that no record remains of its existence. I was asked to preach one time and, like many other first-time preachers, I brought everything I knew into that message. It was long, painful, and scattered–but a kind group of older adults not only invited me to preach, they also patiently sat through my message–though they never asked me back.

Preaching a stand-alone message can be tricky. For me, they generally fall in between sermon series (as I much prefer to preach) or when I am invited somewhere as a guest preacher.

Sometimes, as a guest preacher you are part of a series. For example, at one church, I simply continued the series (though I was a little bitter with the passage I was assigned). This isn’t too difficult– you listen to a few messages before, tie in to those, and help the pastor along the way.

However, it’s harder when you are the guest preacher with a single topic. I think you can go about it in two legitimate ways.

1. Preach a text on a topic.

2. Preach a topic with texts.

Preaching a Text on a Topic

A message is supposed to be grounded in the text, but text-based messages can still become exegetically irresponsible if we force a theme onto a text when it really does not fit. For example, if you are preaching on “motherhood” on Mother’s Day, it might be better to connect with multiple texts rather than preach a text that touches on motherhood and you make it all about motherhood.

So, when preaching a text on a topic, you need to be careful that you don’t let the topic mold the text. Rather, the text, if appropriate, will inform and mold your approach to the topic. However, approaching a message in this way means it may look somewhat different from a standard expositional treatment of the passage. If I am preaching a text on a topic, I do not tell everything I would in a verse-by-verse exposition. Instead, I talk about how this verse undergirds the topic, but also that it addresses more than this topic. I say that, but I do not explain that–there is not time. The topic will limit, to a certain degree, what I unpack from the passage.

For example, when I filled in at another church, I preached from a text on a topic. The text, 1 Peter 4:8-11, involves much more than “Engaging all God’s People in Mission,” but it does include that. When I preach a one week message, after all the study and preparation I wind up leaving a lot on my desk that I don’t take with me into the pulpit. But, I make sure that what I do take is faithful to that text.

Preaching a Topic with Texts

On the other hand, one can also responsibly preach a topic with texts.

I recently returned from a church where my job was to encourage people to “live sent.” I preached a topic with a few texts. The topic was how we might live as the sent people of Jesus. The texts (as well as the title) were the “Sendings of Jesus.” These commissions included John 20:21, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:46-48, and Acts 1:8.

The principles are actually the same. I wound up leaving a lot on my desk, but I worked hard to be faithful in what I brought with me to preach.

Or, once when I preached, the theme was the “seven last words of Jesus.” My assignment was forgiveness. In this case, it was actually both: explain the context of the verse and then teach on my assigned topic– forgiveness. My assigned topic was not just what Jesus did, but how it impacts what God has called us to do. Thus, I made it clear that, “Forgiveness: It’s who God is, it’s why Jesus came, and it’s what Christians do.”

How do you avoid being irresponsible with the text? Well, I believe it is easier to be responsible with a series– which is why I think series are better! If you are preaching through a book, it is simply following the arguments, themes and stories of the author. If you are preaching doctrinally or thematically, you can bring the whole counsel of God to a topic by being faithful to what the scripture teaches in its multiple mentions of the topic.

However, you simply cannot be as thorough in a one shot message.

Here is what I try to do.

1. Never use verses in way that would result in the Apostle Paul (or Moses, Jesus, etc.) to say, “Whoa, that was not my point.”

2. Don’t share everything that you know–leave some things on your desk and tell people you are doing so.

3. Don’t preach a single message like a series– you can’t do it well. Single messages have limitations and you have to live with them.

4. Point people to Jesus. Don’t simply leave them with commands, lead them to the promises of God in Jesus.

I should end with my bias. I don’t like single messages. I prefer series because I find I can present a clearer picture of scriptural teaching on an issue. But, do not despise the single message–nobody ever preaches a series in the Bible, and we don’t see it much until John Chrysostom in the 4th/5th century.

Be faithful with the small things… even the small sermons.

> Read more from Ed.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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Preaching to the Crowd without Offending the Core

In the modern era there have been a generation of preachers whose approach resembled the self-help inspirational talks of Tony Robbins. You could find titles of sermons such as, “Five Ways to a Better Life,” “Four Steps to Overcoming Fears,” and “Three Phases to Raising Obedient Pets.”

I’m just joking about the last one, but you get the idea.

Suffice it to say, some preaching was dumbed down (stripped of theological depth) to reach the dechurched or unchurched by offering pragmatic ways people could have a happier and healthier life.

It’s a good motivation, but I think the wrong application.

I’m not saying that every attempt at preaching in a way that unchurched understand is dumbing down the preaching. I’ve written plenty on the value of seeker comprehensible preaching. I’m talking about those who so simplify the message that it is dumbed down.

Why?

Some of these pastors believed church had become inaccessible or boring to those who were not attending; thus there was a need for creating an environment that was more accessible, understandable, and—hopefully—meaningful.

At different times and places, such an approach did grow some churches.

For some, dumbing down the message resulted in churches that were, as the saying goes, “a mile wide and an inch deep.” The resulting shallow churches didn’t stop some in the younger generation from being captivated by the growth. Seeing the growth of many such churches—and elements that contributed to the growth—led many young preachers (or speakers) to trade theological depth for creativity, craftiness, cleverness, and catchiness.

I’m not railing against the contemporary church or the creativity they exhibited.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I’m not railing against the contemporary church or the creativity they exhibited.

I believe many had a pure heart and wanted to see many people come to know the Lord—and many did. I am just highlighting a potential weakness within that movement that still exists today.

It’s probably obvious I am not a fan of the dumbing down approach. I firmly believe that one can preach to the unchurched (and dechurched) in a way that is both accessible and theologically rich.

I think we can make the preaching seeker comprehensible without dumbing it down.

Putting the Cookies Up on a Little Higher [Theological] Shelf

I’m far from the world’s greatest preacher and teacher. But one of the things that marks our church is that we put the cookies a little higher on the theologically shelf. If teenagers can learn trigonometry and the intricacies of marketing and economics—and if people can go to Starbucks and order a triple shot, venti, soy, no foam, extra-hot latte, with two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup—then they can come to our corporate gathering and learn about propitiation.

I understand there is a debate regarding who the corporate worship gathering is for—some believe it is for the believer, some think it can focus on the unbeliever. I hold that church is for the glory of God and His mission in the world, which leads me to shape corporate worship for both the believer and unbeliever, though for different reasons. (The believer worships. The unbeliever observes.)

Thus, when we do put the theological cookies up on a higher shelf, you may need to provide a stepping stool, or what I refer to as an “on ramp” for unbelievers or newer believers to reach the topic.

By not dumbing down the message, both the unchurched and churched learn and grow, and one of the greatest lessons they learn from aiming high theologically is that Jesus is both accessible and demanding.

A Growing Shift from Shallow to Deep

A while back, I sat down with Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church in Oklahoma. I asked him what has changed about his preaching over the years. He explained that, to preach to the unchurched, he had to start preaching deeper because even the unchurched want deeper content.

In other words, those for whom sermons were being dumbed down aren’t dumb. They are interested in the truth or else they’d be out golfing.

I also had a conversation with James Emery White, author of The Rise of the Nones—one of the best books on engaging secular people—who told me that several things at his church (which leans more seeker-friendly) have changed over the years. One area that has changed was the depth content of the messages. Intrigued, I asked why? He said because they are trying to reach the unchurched and these are the questions the unchurched are asking.

So, it seems that some who would be classified as “seeker-friendly” are shifting their sermon content from having more of a pragmatic flavor to one that is more theologically deep.

Again, I would not put all such churches in the dumbing down category. However, they are increasingly in the digging deep category.

The Art (or the Challenge) of Preaching with both Width and Depth

Preaching with both width and depth is not only a challenge, but also an art.

It takes great intentionality and discipline to take the Scriptures and to develop the sermon content in a way that is faithful to the text and contextually relevant to a diverse audience that may include mature believers, newer believers, and those who may have never read the Bible before.

Here’s the reality: if the sermon primarily focuses on believers it may not connect with the visiting unbeliever. However, if it focuses primarily on unbelievers, it may not grow the believers. Finding the balance is an art, and an art very difficult to master.

In my opinion, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, has mastered this well, and I’m influenced by his thoughts. He is one of the best preachers who “preach up” in a way that connects to both believers and unbelievers without dumbing down. Next time you find yourself listening to a sermon of Keller’s, pay attention to how he weaves in biblical commentary, apologetics, current issues, secular philosophies, cultural artifacts, and cultural needs all the while concluding in a Christ-centered fashion.

When Keller was asked, “What advice would you give to that younger you just starting out in ministry?” he replied,

It takes a long, long, long, long time and lots and lots of practice to become as good a preacher as you are gifted to be. There’s a tendency to think if you are gifted then you can just do it…Then I went and started Redeemer in New York. I thought I was as good a preacher as I was going to be. But Redeemer was a crucible for me and my preaching because these were harder people and their feedback was more negative…It took me thousands of sermons to get to the level that God had gifted me to get to.

I know the easier route for preaching or teaching is to dumb down, to keep it simple, or to not worry about the unchurched who might be present. But, I think that there is a way that we can provide “on ramps” so our preaching can keep the cookie jar a little higher on the shelf theologically.

However, as Keller noted, it will take time and lots of practice for preachers and teachers to be able to rightly divide the word of truth in a way that is both deep and wide—reaching both the believer and unbeliever.

> Read more from Ed.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why HOW You Preach Matters as Much as WHAT You Preach

No, this is not a post about the loss of our religious freedom – it’s a reflection on a quote I’ve looked at many times since I first wrote it down about nine years ago at a conference on preaching…

If you think the gathering of biblical facts and standing up with a Bible in your hand will automatically equip you to communicate well, you are desperately mistaken. It will not. You must work at being interesting. Boredom is a gross violation, being dull is a grave offense, and irrelevance is a disgrace to the gospel. Too often these three crimes go unpunished and we preachers are the criminals. ~ Charles Swindoll

In a previous pastorate, I began preaching through the entire Bible. I almost made it through 2 Samuel when we were called away to join the Saddleback Church staff, but we managed to grow both spiritually and numerically through those four years.

One of the biggest fears people had when we began that journey together was, “Aren’t some parts of the Bible boring?”

Yes and no.

Yes, parts of the Bible can be boring if we don’t read with discernment. But when we put ourselves in the shoes of people who lived during the times of which we’re reading about, then transport ourselves to our 2018 culture, God’s truth unveils itself in radically doable ways.

Still, Swindoll is right, we preachers must work at being interesting.

Here are some tips for doing just that…

Laugh A Little

One Pastor I know tells a joke every Sunday from the pulpit. I don’t recommend it for everybody, but there were two conditions present at his church when he arrived there: a prevailing spirit of negativity and discouragement, and his own comedic personality. For his congregation, laughter became therapeutic.

The joke-a-week may not always be the best approach, but do be willing to laugh, especially at yourself. It’s one of the most disarming things you can do. Your vulnerability and authenticity will definitely break down barriers between you and your listeners.

Make Eye Contact

Sounds basic, yet every week Pastors stand before their congregations and read manuscripts or stare over the heads of the crowd. Make eye contact with as many individuals as possible all around the room. You’ll be amazed at the personal connection and unspoken response that takes place.

Do Something Visual

Slides can become an enemy of interesting rather quickly, but if used creatively, provide a visual enhancement, especially with a video illustration. Just remember these tips…

  • Use slides sparingly
  • Feature only the few biggest points
  • No bullets! Just one point on one slide.
  • Keep the graphics consistent, preferably the sermon series graphics.

Going visual doesn’t even require a screen. You can offer a prop or an object lesson as long as it isn’t cheesy, and as long as you’re using them to illustrate truth rather than impress people.

I’ve played Jenga (with the inevitable crash at the end) to illustrate our attempt to build a life on our own efforts. We’ve handed out puzzle pieces during a sermon about finding our right spot to serve in God’s family.

I remember Pastor Jason Pettus eating (and giving everyone in the room) a small pack of m&m’s once as he talked about having both a ministry and a mission. And I heard that message a decade and a half ago, testifying to how “sticky” his point was.

Be Real and Authentic

I try to find ways I might be speaking in a minister’s tone and I weed it out of my public speaking. When chatting with a neighbor, you don’t point like a dog with one leg in the air, rock back and forth on your feet with a ministerial bounce, or take three syllables to mention the name of JEE-UH-ZUSSS!!

How would you share your message with just one person in the back of the room? Do that. Not once have I ever had a casual coffee conversation and said the words, “I submit to you today that… this coffee is pretty strong.”

And being real and authentic goes much deeper, too. Many pastors are afraid of being authentic because they fear that people will walk away or lose respect based on the pastor’s weaknesses, or knowing to many details.

Here are three things to remember about real, authentic preaching…

  1. You don’t have to be transparent with everyone about the details of your life – just a few close friends will do – but you can be authentic with everyone.
  2. The longer you lead without being authentic, the more you’ll begin to wonder who you really are. Inauthenticity always leads to burnout.
  3. Authenticity is a bridge builder. People draw nearer when we’re willing to be vulnerable.

Can being authentic get you in trouble? Yes. It got Jesus in trouble, often. But in the end, it’s always worth it.

Be as Honest as the Bible and as Compassionate as Jesus

Let me be clear – though I believe in being interesting, it’s most important to be biblical and forthright. You’re still fulfilling a prophetic role of forth-telling.

There seems to be a popular notion today among pastors that the more harsh a point is, the more biblical it must be. But we’re challenged to speak the truth in love, with a view toward redemption and restoration, not judgment and alienation. Our speech should be seasoned with grace.

Truth is interesting when it’s presented in raw form and Jesus modeled this principle. And in the end, sinners didn’t run away from him – they ran toward him.

Connect Their World to YourWorld

It’s great to know what David, Moses, and Paul did, but what should you and I do?

It’s important to understand the attributes of God, now how should I live in light of them?

Find the principles worth living in whatever passage you’re preaching from, and present them with urgency, passion, and a call to action.

Use Verbs

James told us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only.” In fact, most of us already know more than we’re doing.

Words are powerful, and they are the tools of our trade. Use powerful words that communicate a challenge to act.

Repent! Believe! Love! Serve! Give! Read! Share! Pray!

The Christian life is made up of verbs, so use them in your message, and as often as possible, use verbs as the very points of your message. Use active language, not passive language.

If you’ve read all of this with your spiritual arms folded in disgust thinking to yourself, “Well, we’re not here to entertain people!” then listen to this point – someone will.

To “entertain” means to hold someone’s attention.

I think it’s sinful to be unfaithful to Scripture in our preaching, but isn’t it also harmful to misrepresent such a dynamic, living and loving God by communicating to people that his book is boring?

Work at being interesting. The destinies of some might just be moved by it!

> Read more from Brandon.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Rick Warren on Preaching for Life Transformation

If God’s objective for every believer is to transform us into total Christlikeness, then the objective of preaching is to motivate people to develop Christlike convictions (to think like Jesus), Christlike character (to feel like Jesus), and Christlike conduct (to act like Jesus). Every other objective of preaching is secondary. At the end of the sermon, if people aren’t being transformed in how they think, feel, and act, I’ve missed the mark as a preacher.

To put it another way, the ultimate goal of preaching is not information. In fact, giving people a greater knowledge of the Bible can cause pride to develop in our hearers rather than humility if that information isn’t translated into obedience. And the goal if preaching is not merely instruction either. Preaching certainly includes instruction, but there is more to preaching that mere behavior modification. The goal of well-rounded preaching is transformation and obedience.

If we preach with life transformation as our goal, then the result will be believers who are more obedient to the Bible, and we call obedient believers disciples. Just look at the challenges Jesus gave as He taught people – He continually expected people to DO something as a result of hearing Him.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17 (NIV)

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37 (NIV)

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matt. 7:26 (NIV)

“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt. 12:50 (NIV)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matt. 7:21 (NIV)

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…” John 14:23-24 (NIV)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” Luke 11:28 (NIV)

Pastors, we are in the business of producing repentance. And repentance is more than being sorry, it’s more than confessing sin, and it’s more than changing some bad habits. Repentance involves a total change of our thinking to be in agreement with God, which affects our emotions and moves us to act in obedience.

Repentance is changing minds at the deepest level –  the level of beliefs & values. We preach to produce the ultimate paradigm shift for people – the very transformation of their lives. And it’s serious business!

Read more from Rick here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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The Tone of Your Sermon Should Match the Tone of the Text

A good suggestion from Calvin Miller’s Preaching

A brief word about genre: it exists; honor it. Paul’s letters are different from the Psalms, from the minor prophets, from the Pentateuch. Preachers should not handle the Bible as though there is no difference between the various kinds and styles of biblical writing.

When preaching any passage, get in touch with the author.

  • When you preach Jeremiah, find something of the melancholy in it and let the tone suffuse the sermon.
  • When you preach Ecclesiastes, do it wistfully.
  • When you’re in the Psalms, let there be a hint of melody about it.
  • Let the fire out of the Apocalypse and let courage bleed from Esther;
  • let the wind blow in Acts.

Further, find ways of illustrating every individual sermon text with insights and moods that communicate the genre.

  • T. S. Eliot will better illustrate the Psalms than will Billy Graham. Billy might do better in the book of Acts.
  • Let the poets speak to Genesis 1, and the newspaper to 1 Thessalonians.
  • Archibald MacLeish would do better commenting on Job than a prosaic commentator.
  • Let Shakespeare’s sonnets speak to Ruth and Frodo Baggins to the Christ-redemption passages.

Above all put on your touchy-feely wardrobe and pick up the agony and ecstasy and every nuance of form that rings through the various writers of Scripture. To understand this—to feel this—is to give a great gift to your auditors. The gift is one of tone, relationship, and the subliminal.

To fail to honor genre is to give your people the fuzzy notion that the Bible, like the Golden Plates of Nephi, was handed down from heaven as a single piece, and all of it is pretty much alike. But the biblical heroes were immensely different.

  • Ezekiel borders on the neurotic,
  • Isaiah on the elegant,
  • Jeremiah on the morose,
  • Micah on the visionary.

The task will not be easy. It is difficult work to make a genre live. It is like the studious work of an actor, who will study for weeks the part he wishes to portray before he ever steps out on stage to portray it. Then when at last he interprets the part, he is captive to it. The role alters the player’s complete personality, and the actor cannot easily shuck what he has worked so hard to gain.

Even within a single writer there will be various tones.

  • Moses is a furious zealot in Exodus, but in Deuteronomy he is a reflective old man. Don’t preach both passages the same way.
  • Paul is firm and tough in 1 Corinthians, but he is moody and tender in 2 Timothy.
  • Jesus is full of parables in Luke, but full of prayer and philosophy in John.

Giving these various moods and tempos, styles and emotions will bring to your people a rich sense of the varied nature of how God speaks through human agency. Let the Bible become as variegated to you as you would like it to be to them. God does after all speak in various ways his wonders to perform.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

7 Ways of Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

No pastor wants his preaching to be considered “Christ-less” or something other than “Christ-centered.” Still, it is sometimes difficult to understand what exactly is meant by this kind of terminology. Likewise, no pastor wants to “read into” the text something that is not there.

In the initial chapter of his book, Preaching Christ from Genesis, Sidney Griedanus lays out seven ways that a preacher can legitimately preach Christ from the Old Testament. I’ve adapted the examples for each category in order to keep the focus on how there are multiple ways to preach Christ from an Old Testament account (such as Noah).

1. Redemptive-Historical Progression

The redemptive-historical road to Christ is the “broadest and foundational path from an Old Testament text to Jesus Christ” (3). It takes into consideration the history of redemption which begins with the opening chapters of Genesis and culminates in the vision of a restored paradise in Revelation. This journey from creation to new creation takes us down a path of redemptive history in God’s acts in Israel, through Christ, and then through the church. We take into consideration the place we are in the biblical storyline and then look forward to the climax of Christ’s death and resurrection.

An example would be the story of Noah. More than a simple story of warning against judgment, it is also a continuation of the Genesis plotline, where the seed of the woman must avenge the heel of the serpent. God’s preservation of Noah is the way He keeps His promises, and we anticipate the coming of the Seed – Jesus Christ in His first coming and then His second.

2. Promise-Fulfillment

The “promise-fulfillment” motif is a direct road to Christ from an Old Testament text. The New Testament reveals hundreds of passages that promise the coming Messiah. A preacher who utilizes this approach will take a direct road from the Old Testament promise to the New Testament’s fulfillment.

An example is Genesis 3:15, where God promises that one of Eve’s offspring will crush the head of the serpent. Another example is Isaiah 9:6, where God promises that a virgin will bring forth a son whose name will be called Emmanuel. From the New Testament, we recognize this as being ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

3. Typology

Another way of preaching Christ from the Old Testament is through the careful use of typology, seeing Old Testament events, persons, or institutions as foreshadowing Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.

For example, one finds parallels with the story of Noah. Here, we have a righteous man whose family is saved due to his standing with God. In a similar manner, Jesus Christ is the righteous One whose family is saved due to His obedience.

One must take care to not flatten the Old Testament stories that foreshadow Christ by making all details align. But there are indeed hints and foretastes of Christ in the Old Testament, and a wise preacher will make use of them in his preaching. (Here are some examples of how famous Southern Baptist pastor W. A. Criswell and others have done this with the story of Joseph.)

4. Analogy

Another road to Christ from the Old Testament is by analogy. According to Griedanus, “analogy exposes parallels between what God taught Israel and what Christ teaches the church; what God promised Israel and what Christ promises the church; what God demanded of Israel (the law) and what Christ demands of his church” (5).

This approach uses God’s interactions in the Old Testament as a picture that has further application for us today. Jesus used this method when He told the story of Noah as an analogy (Matthew 24:37-41), urging people to repent and thereby escape the coming judgment.

5. Longitudinal Themes

A fifth road to Christ from the Old Testament is similar to the “redemptive-historical” method, but it focuses mainly on the development of theological ideas. These are “longitudinal themes” because they can be traced throughout the biblical storyline, and they develop over time as they culminate in Christ.

Examples of these themes would be God’s kingdom (brought ultimately by Jesus Christ the King), God’s presence (foreshadowed in the Temple but fulfilled in Christ’s incarnation), and God’s judgment (seen in God’s actions against sin, but also His willingness to bring salvation through judgment).

Returning to the story of Noah, we can trace the theme of God’s judgment, understanding that the judgment that falls on the wicked (the flood) is the means of salvation for Noah and his family (1 Peter 3:21). This theme is most clearly seen in the cross, when salvation comes to us through the judgment of God that falls upon Christ.

6. New Testament references

Another road to Christ is found in New Testament references or allusions from the Old Testament. Most often, these references can be used as further evidence of the other ways of pointing to Christ.

Going back to the story of Noah, we could see an allusion to Noah’s faith as referenced in Hebrews 11:7. This reference gives us insight into the nature of true faith in the face of judgment, reminding us of the faith we are to have in Christ for salvation.

7. Contrast

The last road in Griedanus’ taxonomy of ways to preach Christ from the Old Testament is the way of contrast. There are aspects of biblical teaching that are quite different today as a result of Christ’s coming. Griedanus uses the example of circumcision. In the Old Testament, circumcision was required of every adult male. In the New Testament, baptism has become the sign of covenant membership. What is now required is “circumcision of the heart” which is brought about through Christ’s death and resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Read more from Trevin here.
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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Environments >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.