There’s a difference in preaching and teaching. Certainly, preaching contains teaching, however preaching is more – at least it should be. The goal of preaching is the transformation of lives. I once heard someone say that “preaching goes for the guts.” I liked that and often have that in the back of my mind when preparing sermons. Please don’t be offended if you are a teacher. Teaching is essential and as I just wrote, preaching must contain teaching. It’s just that preaching takes good teaching and adds to it the “so what” that will turn the transfer of information into the transformation of life.
Changed lives is what we are preaching for, right? It’s not about impressing people with our speaking ability or intelligence. It’s not about passing on head knowledge about the Bible. It’s about transforming lives for Jesus Christ. Right? Pews full of people who only know about Jesus won’t be the missional disciples that North America desperately needs. We need pews full of people who intimately know Jesus and are daily being changed into his likeness – people who are living as Jesus would in the world around them. In our pulpits we must be preaching for a change. A change of life. A change into mature, missional disciples of Christ.
Do you know the Anglican Church in North America’s mission statement? Is it:
“Reaching North America With Teaching About Jesus Christ.”
“Reaching North America with the Transforming love of Jesus Christ”
Our mission as Anglicans in North America is to reach every human being in North America so that their lives are changed through a personal, growing relationship with Jesus. If you are a preacher, are you preaching for a change? (just in case, the latter is the correct answer)
4 Ways to Preach for a Change
- Give Regular Invitations to Believe in Christ for Salvation. I can guarantee you that a person won’t be changed into mature Christlikeness if they aren’t even born again. I was in church for years giving the outward appearance of being a Christ follower, however it wasn’t until I prayed a prayer to believe in Jesus and his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of my sins and had the Holy Spirit dwelling within me that I began to be transformed. The Holy Spirit, no doubt, is drawing people to the Father prior to their salvation. However, true transformation of life won’t come without them becoming a believer. You don’t have to force an invitation into every sermon; however, more often than not it naturally fits to say, “If you’re here today and you’ve never prayed this prayer, please pray along with me…” If you want to see lives changed, help people take that first step and not just hope they do.
- Give people the “So What.” So what are they supposed to do with the information in the message? Wow, that was great information about the original Greek of that word – so what do I do to apply that into my life this week to be more like Christ? Preaching for a change is adding to good Biblical teaching the “so what” applications. I adopted an application based approach to preaching where my main points (derived from the Biblical text) would be the applications. I tried to preach “how to” messages instead of “ought to” messages. Many believers already know what they ought to do. It’s the application that they need help with. Try adding to your messages a, “Would you this week….” and add whatever applications the text and the Lord is challenging them with.
- Give hand-outs or a sermon notes section in the bulletin. Many people absorb information better when their hands are writing. I’m an auditory learner so I’m good with just listening, but I’ve found so many people appreciated being able to write down their “take-aways” from the message as they heard it. Later, they could also refer to their notes during the week. I assumed that most people would forget most of what I said by the time they got to the parking lot (sadly considering how much work goes into sermons). However, by giving them opportunities to write applications down it gives them a better chance to retain what they heard and see their lives changed for the good.
- Give people the opportunity to make commitments. Good ideas don’t transform lives. Commitments do. Like, believing it’s a good idea to have a daily quiet time to know God and read the Word but never doing it won’t change your life. However, making a commitment to a daily quiet time and doing it faithfully over time, will absolutely bring change to your life. Rather than letting people just smile and nod at the good idea you are challenging them with, ask people to make a commitment that day to put into practice whatever the application is that day or week. Some examples are, would you commit to Christ as your savior and Lord? Or, would you commit to tithing? Or, would you commit to joining a small group? People are what they are committed to. Don’t be afraid to preach for a change and ask people to make commitments.
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching at the American Anglican Council.