Preaching is important. The Apostle Paul encourages his young friend Timothy to preach the word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). As pastors and Christian leaders, this means we must always be prepared to preach and effectively communicate the transforming power of new life in Christ.
Most pastors aspire to be good preachers and we’ve all heard our share of sermons. Some great, many good, and some not so good. Effective preaching can be tricky. You must discern what God is saying, put it down on paper (or your laptop), and turn it into a sermon. Then you need to deliver that sermon to a crowd of people with different backgrounds, diverse needs and varying levels of spiritual maturity. And, of course, your goal isn’t that people will just hear your message, but that it goes beyond their ears and penetrates their hearts so that their lives, priorities and actions are changed. Every week!
That’s no small task and we deeply rely of God’s help and the Holy Spirit’s anointing to get that accomplished. While our culture and methods change, the word of God does not. And as preachers, we need to take this to heart as we are entrusted with communicating the gospel to the people of our day. Here are three preaching essentials to effectively reach people of today’s culture.
In the first chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is referred to as the Word (logos, in Greek). Jesus is the central person of the gospels. So, pointing people to Jesus should be one foundational component of our preaching. Whether you preach verse by verse or talk about different Biblical themes or contemporary topics, the basis of the words must be rooted in the truth of scripture and the reality of the person of Jesus. Doing anything less would be a sad disservice to your people.
But we’ve probably all heard sermons that spoke truth but somehow missed the mark at connecting with people. And while the Old Testament prophet Isaiah said that his words will certainly accomplish their purposes (Isaiah 55:11), we can help our listeners connect with our words by using a few, simple techniques.
Jesus was a master story teller. He told stories of fathers, farmers and fishermen. We typically call his stories parables, which are simply stories with a central message. Jesus often used them to back up the point he was making. And that’s a good example for us to follow.
Personal stories are tools that help our listeners not only relate to us, but also reinforce the point we are making. After all, what good is a great message if people don’t remember it? A well-placed story can be the difference between a good sermon, and a great, memorable message that impacts a life.
Another technique to effectively reach this generation is the careful and appropriate use of humor. Some think humor is frivolous and should not be used in communicating such an important message as the gospel of Jesus Christ. And while there is no more important message to preach, humor can be used to help listeners relate to the preacher.
When a new person sits down in the pews of your church, he doesn’t know you, and probably doesn’t trust you. Many people today view pastors with suspicion, so one major hurdle preachers need to address is making a trusting connection with their audience. The use of humor can do this. If your audience can laugh with you (or at you), it breaks down barriers and builds trust.
But a word of caution. Humor should not be used as an end in itself. It must be carefully applied as a technique to draw people in and break down barriers. Laughter sets people at ease and creates an open atmosphere to hear the message you’ve worked hard to prepare. So be careful how you use humor and make sure it serves its intended purpose.
In your pursuit to engage culture and effectively communicate to this generation, the skillful use of word, story and humor will go a long way in effectively sharing the good news message of Jesus.