Every job comes with responsibilities. A position without responsibilities cannot exist. As ministers, one of our responsibilities is preaching. Within the role of preaching, there are two sole responsibilities.
1. Convince people they are sick.
Unlike patients who go to a doctor because they know that they are sick, our congregation often comes to church only out of a sense of tradition or habit, and not necessarily because they recognize their individual sicknesses.
How do we convince them otherwise? We embed statements of relevancy to our congregations from the passage we are preaching on. If your sermon narrative is on Saul, an effective statement could be, “we crave power like Saul by making the lives of our co-workers more difficult because of a promotion we want to get before them.”
The sooner you make statements like these that matter to your congregation, the sooner your audience will be engaged.
Another example is, “regardless of your spiritual maturity, you too can have moral failure like King David.” At this point you can transition from a biblical story to a modern day anecdote that they can relate to.
Personally, I like to open my sermon with an illustration that allows me to transition into my need. The need is the fact of their sickness. This description of need communicates why they should listen to you for the next 30 minutes.
Remember, your audience must be convinced that they need help. If they do not believe this about themselves, they stop listening because your sermon, and the scripture you quote, feels irrelevant to their lives.
When done well, the Bible should be presented in a way that is relevant for today, rather than being seen as just a book filled with stories.
Once you have identified their sickness, you must then communicate hope. We never want to leave people in a hopeless state.
2. Provide the medicine: hope.
The answer you give to you sermon subject should be the hope for their sickness. Ultimately, that’s what it means to preach for life change. The sermon deals with a particular need (sickness) of the people. Once they are convinced that they have a problem, the sermon will give them a “magic” pill from scripture.
Relax, I don’t believe in “magic.”
Let me show you how this plays out. Let’s say our text is Mark 14:12-52. In this passage, Mark writes on the last Passover, and prophesies that they will all scatter from him. Lastly, we read the scene in which Jesus gets arrested in the garden while his disciples scatter.
Our sickness from this text is: we too are prone to abandoning Christ in difficult times. This is the need. This need is the reason that they should listen.
So your subject (medicine) may be, “How can we be faithful in times of testing?” You can now show them how God was sovereign over the Passion Week. Nothing happened that caught Him off guard.
Connect this message to the audience’s personal experiences by explaining how God is sovereign over everything in their lives, especially in times of suffering. The opposite of abandoning Christ in difficult times is recognizing God’s sovereignty and trusting him through prayer.
In this sermon, prayer is your application. The application is what gives your audience the practical steps necessary to apply the medicine to their own lives.
So before you get into the minutia of sermon prep, ask yourself what problem the text is solving. Why did the author write this specific passage? Then, begin prepping your sermon with these two guiding questions in mind.
We often hear people say to, “Preach the Gospel” and “Preach Scripture.” If you think about it, the reason why that’s said so frequently is because what’s contained in these things are the medicine to our problems.
Apostle Paul knew it. He said, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). Why?
He recognized that people needed a savior – this was their sickness – and the solution, or medicine, was Christ’s work.
When we don’t hear scripture or the gospel preached by pastors, our frustration lies in the fact that other solutions to the sicknesses of congregations falls short.
Those sermons may be inspirational, but will not be life changing.
Next time you are prepping your sermon, remember to ask yourself, “What is the sickness (need), and what is the medicine (biblical truth applied) of my sermon?”
Question: What guides you in your sermon prep? Leave comment below.