Now that we have understood Paul’s message, let’s talk about application. How can this passage make a difference in our lives this week?
These are some of the most important words in your sermon.
But what comes next?
Do you know how to craft a compelling push to apply God’s Word, or do you stay in safe, generic waters?
“Read the Bible.”
While these are certainly important – just as the biblical author had a specific agenda for his ancient audience, so we must apply the text to the specific men, women and children before us each Sunday.
The problem is that many of us have not been given the tools to think more creatively about application. Here are some tips I have picked up over the years. I pray you will find them useful – even for your sermon this Sunday!
1) STRUCTURE application so it is memorable.
Many preachers do a fine job structuring the body of their sermon, but they leave the application mushy and hard to follow. Next week put more structure in your application –it will help both you and your listeners.
Example: (near / far) “This morning there are two things for us to do with this passage. One of them must be done today, and the second is the work of a lifetime…”
Example: (multi-faceted) Our first application has to do with our physical bodies, and the second with our heart’s attitude. In other words, the first is “external” and the second is “internal.”
2) TARGET application to a “niche” population.
Often we try, without success, to apply God’s Word to everyone every week. Instead, try occasionally segmenting your application to a specific group. You will find that everyone else will listen in closely – and they will be more likely to then make application to their own lives.
Example: “Our passage today, of course, has application for all of us. But this morning I want all of our single mothers (or teenagers, or men, or elderly, or 20-somethings, etc.) to listen carefully to me, because I have a specific challenge for you…”
3) LINK your application to a scheduled ministry event.
As you think about application be on the lookout for how God is bringing multiple events together in your ministry. As pastors we are often looking too far away for application when it is right there in our Sunday bulletin.
Example: “Today Paul has challenged us to walk in sexual purity. I don’t think it is an accident that our men’s ministry has been planning a workshop, next Wednesday night, for all men and boys to address the challenge of temptations via technology. What better application that for us to be there Wednesday night…”
4) APPLY to yourself first!
If you are going to ask your congregation to do, think or feel something differently because of your sermon, shouldn’t you apply it to yourself first? When you can do this it adds a powerful punch and credibility to your application.
Example: “God’s Word has challenged us to forgive our enemies. Let me share how God has used this passage in my life – when a few day ago I picked up the phone and called…”
5) EXTEND the application by developing it further in other settings.
Because God is speaking to our congregations through our sermons – and so we should give careful thought on how to extend the application discussion beyond the morning message. In our church, each of our small groups spends time on “sermon response questions.”
Ideas: Add a section in your newsletter to remind / emphasize sermon application. Provide sermon response questions for small groups. Discuss application challenges at congregational meetings or strategic planning sessions.
6) DEVELOP multi-week applications.
Often we limit ourselves and only see application as a one-time event. Consider setting application goals that carry over several weeks or span an entire sermon series.
Example: “Last week my challenge was for each of us to ask two godly people how they approach the spiritual discipline of prayer. Now, this week our challenge is to take what we have learned and make it our own…”
7) CUSTOMIZE application through directed visualization.
Taking a general application (i.e. seek wisdom through godly counsel) can be enriched by a time of personal reflection.
Example: “I want each of you, right now, to think about an important decision coming up in your life. Maybe it is at work concerning a job opening. Perhaps you and your wife are at a fork in the road, or it is a ministry decision… Do you have it? Great! Now consider how seeking wisdom through godly counsel can become a reality in your life…
8) PROVIDE a “handout” or “object” to make your application tangible.
A few times a year (not too often) I will have a handout or object to give my congregation as part of the application. Over the years I have given out pennies (widow’s mite), plants (spiritual growth) and books to help make an application more powerful.
Example: “As we finish this message on love, I have for each of you today a short book by Francis Schaeffer called, “The Mark of The Christian.” Your application is to take this book home and read it over the next two weeks…”
9) CALL for a response. (altar call, raised hand, stand etc.).
Too often we think of application as a cerebral event – all occurring between the ears. Occasionally linking the body with the mind can have a powerful effect.
Example: “After the service, four groups of elders will be stationed around the worship center. ‘Surrendering all to Christ’ begins by telling Jesus you belong to Him. Come to any of these four areas to pray and receive prayer today.”
10) ADD the word “by” to your application!
How do you know if your application is compelling or too generic? If you can add the word, “by” – then you can (and should) be more specific.
Too General: “Love the poor around us.”
Better: “Love the poor around us… by bring in your canned food over the next three weeks – to replenish the food pantry.
I hope you have found these tips helpful. May God bless your application this week as we together ask God to change lives through our sermons to His glory!
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. – Matthew 7:24
Question: What application method have you lived by?