My friend Rod Casey recently wrote an article for Preaching Magazine that I thought was really good. It’s all about considering your audience when you preach. Rod starts out:
Too many preachers fail to ask themselves what every successful fisherman asks. They fail to ask what bait will hook their listeners. Preachers may think that because their seminary training only needed an open Bible and syllabus notes to learn effectively that the same should be true for their learners, as well.
This line of thinking assumes that what was good enough for the preacher’s training in discipleship should be sufficient for everyone else. “My Bible teachers didn’t cater to me, and I learned the material presented just fine,” the preacher may think. This thinking assumes more motivation than is typically true for many who are listening to a sermon.
The learner is more motivated to engage the sermon’s subject when it addresses life crises the learner is experiencing. These crises may be obvious, such as an impending divorce or the death of a friend. Other life crises are less dramatic to the outside observer but equally intense for the person experiencing them. Examples include relational conflict with an employee, worry about a child’s schooling or the security of the world post-September 11. The learner is highly motivated to engage the proposition proposed when the preacher speaks to the concerns that are on the hearts of the hearers and does so from a theological perspective. These same preachers actively look for opportunities to address problems as they surface in the text…
I’ve heard many a preacher that automatically thought that everyone in the room was interested in what they were saying when looking around the room anyone could tell that nothing could be further from the truth.
Do you automatically take for granted that people will love your topic, your theme, your illustrations, your 45 minutes of babbling? If so, maybe you should read more of Rod’s article and think things through again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also heard many great sermons… engaging, inspiring, even entertaining.
All I’m saying is that we all like to hear ourselves talk. Especially preachers (I’ve found). Let’s make sure that we think through our audience, their needs, and how to best present our story (the Gospel). If and when we do, it is only GOOD for the outcome.
What do you think? How often do you think of your intended audience as you’re preparing your weekly message?
I’d love to hear your comments…