I don’t know about you, but I’m deeply interested in two things when I deliver a sermon.
I want to stay faithful to the Scriptures, and I want people’s lives transformed by the Scriptures.
For me, it’s not just about head knowledge. I want to see people surrender more and more of their lives to the authority of Jesus.
I believe this is where real life is found. Who’s with me?!?
I want people to live differently because of Jesus.
Of course, I understand that this transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit, but there is also human skill involved here.
I believe that some preachers and teachers are better at helping people live differently.
I want to talk about two of the lessons I’ve learned in preaching in a way that helps people change.
I believe these ideas apply for weekend service preachers, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, parents who lead devotionals around the dining room table... pretty much anyone who communicates the Scriptures.
1. Learn From the Villains and Dummies
One of the mistakes we often make when preaching is throwing the villains and dummies under the bus.
We often treat the disciples before Pentecost with a sense of
“What a bunch of idiots!”
We talk about the Pharisees as if they are Satan himself.
And then there are the “bad” kings of Judah and Israel.
Those guys are just terrible!
I find it much more helpful to help the audience put themselves in the place of the disciples, Pharisees or even some of the darker villains in the story.
I find it incredibly helpful to ask questions like,
“Where do I do that?”
“What do I do when I don’t get what I want?”
“How do I act when I’m afraid?”
“How do I respond when I’m angry?”
“Where do I doubt God?”
So often, we use the attitudes and mistakes of characters in the Scriptures to make ourselves feel better.
“Well, at least I’m not that guy.”
But, there is so much to learn from the antagonists and failures in Scripture.
Also, it can be hard for people in our congregations to learn from ideal characters.
Personally, I find it easier to learn and grow when I can relate to mistakes biblical characters make.
I’m grateful that the biblical writers didn't edit the lives of the characters of Scripture.
I see the same mistakes, character flaws, selfish desires, and catastrophically bad decisions of the Bible in the world around me, and if I’m honest, in myself as well.
All I’m saying is that as you teach the Scriptures, help your people ask better questions about the villains.
Digging into the bad decisions and character flaws will help you preach in a way that helps people live differently.
2. Stop Asking People to Make God More Important
One of the roles of a preacher and teacher is to challenge people to make God the priority He deserves in our lives.
Unfortunately, as we do this, I believe we often use language that inadvertently hinders change.
We challenge people to make God more important than work, than family, than money, than hobbies, etc.
And while this is true, how we say it can stall growth and change in our people.
For example, I don’t think people know how to make Jesus more important than family because it feels like we need to deemphasize the role of family in our lives.
I believe that this sort of challenge actually keeps people from the transformation we all want to see.
To challenge people to make Jesus more important than money can send a weird message about how much money we should make and what we should do with it.
In my opinion, a better challenge is to ask people to invite Jesus into these important areas of their lives.
Instead of saying, “Make Jesus more important than money,” what if we challenged people to invite Jesus into our relationship with money.
How should the teachings, character and example of Jesus influence how we spend, save and give?
My senior pastor often says something like,
“It’s not about giving Jesus a bigger slice of the pie; it’s about making Jesus the pie tin.”
We have found this shift in understanding to be incredibly helpful for our people.
It’s not about moving Jesus higher up on the priority list of our lives, it’s about inviting Jesus to influence and shape how we engage each of our priorities.
The authority of Jesus shapes and holds everything in our lives together.
In my experience, this shift in preaching language helps people live differently.
Well, there you go. Two ideas to help us communicate the Scriptures in a way that actually helps people grow and change.
These are the only two skills. We’d love to hear strategies and ideas that you’ve found helpful. Please let us a comment below to get the conversation started.