Why do we preach? Why do I spend countless hours every week mulling over a text from an ancient book to simply stand up on a stage and deliver a 30-minute message? Is there a goal? Is there a purpose? To what end do we do these things?
The goal of preaching is singular in purpose and approach but the impact is multi-faceted. Our purpose in preaching is to help people read the Bible better. The approach is text-driven in nature. The impact of the sermon, though, has the ability to speak, reach, touch, convict, and draw people to the God of the Text. The sermon is the conduit that the Spirit often uses to speak and see lost people saved and saved people discipled.
With this as our backdrop, let’s examine five truths that enable our preaching to be an effective tool used by God to see lost people saved.
- Rely on the Holy Spirit
The foolishness of preaching is to see lost people saved (1 Cor. 1:21), yet the preacher is not the agent of change. He is simply relying on the Holy Spirit to use him to speak and to move in the lives of others. This is a huge relief to the preacher. It’s not our job to save anyone. Our job is to communicate the message given to us by God. We must leave the results to the Lord. Pastor, this means you shouldn’t get discouraged if people don’t respond to the sermon in the way you had hoped. Trust and rely on the Holy Spirit to do His job and let us be focused on what He has called us to do.
- Prayer is Essential
We often think that preaching is communication from a man to people. And it is. But before it’s that, it must be communication between a man and his God. Preaching does not begin in the pulpit or in the study parsing Greek words. Preaching begins on our knees in prayer.
I heard a preacher once say that he became convicted because few people in his church were being saved. He noticed he was spending 15-20 hours a week in study preparation for the message but only 15-20 minutes a day in prayer preparation. My argument is not to be a Pharisee and have equal prep and prayer time. But I do think that if God’s man would spend more time in reflection and prayer, we would see the supernatural more often.
- Expect to see God move
We should expect to see lost people saved. This point goes hand-in-hand with prayer. James tells us that we should not pray and doubt. We should step into the pulpit on Sunday morning with a Spirit-given confidence that God is going to move in that service and draw the lost to Himself.
- Preach Jesus
“How are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
I love listening to sermons. I listen to preachers in my denomination and outside of my denomination. I listen to preachers who are now in heaven and young preachers who are just starting out. One trend I’m beginning to see is a faithfulness to the Text, but a void of the Gospel. Praise God that text-driven preaching seems to be growing, but we must understand that true text-driven preaching MUST proclaim Jesus. No matter where you fall in your philosophy of homiletics (Christ-centered, God-centered, Gospel-centered), we are first and foremost Christian preachers. As we study the sermons given by the disciples of Jesus in the New Testament, we find a common theme — Jesus. Regardless of whether we are preaching the Creation narrative, a story from the Judges, a Psalm of David, or a prophecy from Jeremiah, we must point people to our only hope: Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. For this is the Gospel (1 Cor 15:3-4).
- Give an Invitation
Think about this: — suppose one afternoon my wife and I go to the store and buy the biggest steaks and baskets full of veggies and bread and we come home and begin to prepare the most exquisite meal you have ever seen. The steaks are grilled perfectly. The bread is hot. The veggies steamed nicely. We set the table. And we wait. And we wait. And we wait. I go to the front door and look out and I see no one. So I grab my phone and text you and ask where you are. I say “the steaks are getting cold and the bread is getting hard and the veggies soggy. Dinner is ready!” And your response is, “Wes, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were cooking, you never invited me over.”
Preacher, you can prepare the greatest sermon this world has ever heard, but if you don’t provide a way for people to respond, then they won’t.
Churches today are seeing fewer and fewer people converted. Certainly, there are many reasons for this. However, the reason should never be because the preacher did not invite the sinner to salvation. I’m not arguing methodology but philosophy. If “walking the aisle” does not fit your context, that’s fine. But what does fit your context? Maybe filling out a card or coming forward once the service is over. Some churches are encouraging people who want more information about Jesus to email or text the church. The method should be driven by your context but the philosophy must be driven by our conviction. A time of response is a very natural occurrence following (or even during) a sermon (Acts 2:28, Acts 26:27, Nehemiah 8:9).
The answer to seeing conversions is not to dumb-down the sermon, to remove the Gospel-offense, or to make it palatable to all. The answer is to rely on God and trust Him to fulfill His desires (1 Timothy 2:4).