How Preaching Moves the Church Forward
Perhaps the most difficult challenge in teaching is looking at how specifically it is used to move the church herself into Spiritual maturity over time. All teaching approaches, from topical to Bible-book studies to series based, needs a purpose and goal beyond simple information. Knowledge that does not lead to action creates pious human spiritual dictionaries that can argue what they believe even as their lives don’t reflect it. Biblical preaching will lead to life change. To move beyond a funny, engaging or interesting talk to effective preaching that moves the church forward, embrace the idea of challenging your church through the pulpit. What kinds of challenge?
Challenging the Status Quo. People may not like where they are in life, but the are generally satisfied with who they are. They’ll roll with the punches on changing circumstances, but they avoid the idea of a change in character. Preaching can challenge the status quo in that area. A central message of New Testament Christianity is that we cannot be a people content to bathe in lukewarm water. As an agent of change, think about how your preaching can challenge people to grow in obedience to Christ, and what that means on a daily basis.
Challenging Common Sense. Jesus’ teaching in His own time on earth was in many ways the opposite of the conventions of the day. In areas like who to associate with, or how to forgive, or the piety of religious leaders, He made waves with what He said. As an agent of thought, consider how your preaching can undo conventional thinking and replace it with Christ-centered thinking. A great place to look to Jesus’ example here is in the first part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)… “You have heard it said, but I say unto you…” is a phrase mentioned several times. Today we would say, “You probably think this, but consider this instead…”
Challenging Inactivity. Most churches are filled with sponges who soak up worship and teaching and then—nothing. As an agent of action, look for ways to connect your teaching to simple actions your people can take to live out what the Bible is saying to them. Teaching that is thoughtful, and lets the listener wrestle with their own application of it, is good from time to time, but the reality is that most listeners don’t give the sermon a second thought once they clear the pew. Instead, connect faith to action when possible, providing a means to put teaching into practice. This is especially useful when you can tie the teaching in to your church’s core ministries and volunteer needs.
Challenging Spiritual Blindness. Jesus’ first sermon was one sentence: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. We must not forget that we are spiritually sighted people living among the spiritually blind. We have a counsel in the Holy Spirit Who is drawing people toward Christ and using our teaching as one of His tools to do so. Don’t let your teaching fail to show people without Christ that all is not well in their eternal picture. As an agent of the Holy Spirit, think about how your preaching can be infused with the Gospel messages of repentance, surrender and relationship. I am a firm believer that every message should contain an element of the Gospel. Spurgeon said, “Whatever subject I preach, I do not stop until I reach the Savior, the Lord Jesus, for in Him are all things.”
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.