6 Questions That Will Help Your Next Sermon Reach Everyone

This is about removing assumptions in our preaching and sermon content, so ironically, we need to begin with a few assumptions.

When you preach, I assume your hope is to reach every person in your audience, connect them all to a new way of thinking, and lead them all to apply a new way of living. That’s the basic idea preaching, right? Provide true information that compels helpful application.

If we hope to lead everyone in the room to the truth of our message, we must start by connecting everyone in the room to us and our message. That’s not a simple task.

For instance, if you only had an audience of one, developing a message that will accomplish your connecting goal would be relatively simple. To grasp where one person is in their faith, understanding of God, and engagement in a Christian worldview is likely. Not necessarily easy, but certainly possible.

With an audience of 10, the task gets more complicated — potentially 10 times more complicated in fact. A larger audience brings a larger diversity of backgrounds, understandings, willingness to believe, and willingness to apply ideas or new truths.

Grow the audience to 100, or 1,000, or 10,000, and the task gets exponentially more complex.

In the face of this complexity, there is one preaching mistake I see more than any other:

Too many sermons are crafted around unshared faith assumptions.

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How to Make Your Next Sermon Pressure Free

Are you communicating this weekend?

Maybe preaching at your church? Speaking in a student ministry? Or even training or casting vision to volunteers.

I am, and it got me to thinking…

No matter the environment, the audience, or the type of message, communicating in any spiritual context brings a unique pressure. It’s a pressure that only communicators in the church can fully understand.

When I worked in the marketplace, I communicated quite a bit. I made sales calls, staged product demonstrations, presented data and strategy analysis, and even occasionally spoke to larger audiences about our business, our competencies, and our industry.

None of these moments compare to what happens in ministry, though. There is such a unique weight in any ministry communication. The pressure comes from many places:

  • God: Let’s just start where everything in us as pastors and teachers should start. It doesn’t take more than a cursory reading of James (among other Biblical books) to feel the weight of our position. And we should feel the weight. If we don’t, we apparently aren’t taking our position as seriously as God does. When we stand in front of people to encourage, admonish, or anything in between, we represent more than just our opinion. That’s pressure.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

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6 Ways to Craft an Ineffective Sermon

You have never tried to make your message irrelevant, boring, or incomprehensible.

At least I hope not!

But you find yourself preaching while questioning your effectiveness. You walk up to deliver a sermon lacking confident in your content. You question your ability. Your capacity. Even your calling. You feel your church more tolerates the message than engages in the content.

Of course, this isn’t the case EVERY time you preach, but more times than you’d like to admit.

Option 1:

The easy solution is to become hyper-spiritual. Say you are “trusting” God and the Holy Spirit to speak in spite of you. Not to be irreverent, though. We know at the heart of preaching, spiritual intervention is necessary. But we all know the difference between “I’m ready to go and trusting God to do what only he can do,” and “I’m not close to ready, so God perform a miracle.”

Option 2:

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Tip 5. Relevant Preaching (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number five:

TIP 5. Relevant preaching.

Preaching is part art, part science.

Every preacher has a style (the art) and an approach (the science). Discovering your style takes time – especially if you listen to specific preachers consistently. It becomes easier to mimic the cadence and style of your favorite communicator than to discover and own your style. Maybe we should address this at some point.

But approach is different. Approach is science. Approach is that intentional side of preaching where you pre-determine what you hope to accomplish in and through your sermon. Often, your approach determines your outcome. In fact, the results you see today are a direct result of your approach.

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How Andy Stanley’s Surprise Visit Taught Me Something Important

Have you ever been frustrated that you were frustrated?

Sometimes our frustration is understandable. Sometimes only we can understand our frustration.

But then there are those times when we are frustrated, but we know we shouldn’t be frustrated…which makes us more frustrated! This pretty much describes my experience when my boss, Andy Stanley, recently paid Watermarke Church (the campus location where I lead) a surprise visit.

Just a little background. It’s not normal for Andy to be at Watermarke. We still meet in a school, so our ability to export and broadcast messages to our other church locations is limited. When Andy preaches, everyone needs to hear him, so preaching from Watermarke is not optimal at the moment. But on this particular Sunday, Andy was not preaching, so with his off-Sunday, he decided to pay us a visit – an unannounced visit.

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Do Deep Messages Impress Your Seminary, but Confuse Your Church?

Why do we tend to over-complicate everything?

It’s not just you. I do it, too. In fact, I do it constantly.

Nowhere more than when I am writing a message. As a communicator and preacher, there’s something in me (and I bet I’m not alone) that intuitively believes a message is only good if it’s deep, layered, and rich. If we were baking a cake, that would be true. But this is a message. The reality is a deep, layered, and rich sermon might impress an audience or a seminary professor, but it typically doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Worse, it’s not memorable or easily applicable.

I have trouble seeing this in my own messages at times, but as is often the case, what’s difficult to see in the mirror is clear through a window. Recently I was helping a friend write a message. He had a GREAT idea. Very personal. Very helpful. And it was beautifully simple. But there was something in us both that wanted to complicate the content. We wanted to cover every angle and answer every issue.

Luckily, before he and his message hit the stage, we both remembered this basic preaching truth: Simple is better, because simple is digestible and applicable. Again, if you are trying to impress a crowd, go deep, layered, and rich. But, if you want people to understand and apply the truth you spent hours and hours studying and preparing, throw out the cake and work toward simplicity.

Here are a few steps I take when searching for message simplicity:

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This Might Be The Most Important Preaching Principle I’ve Learned

This might be the most important preaching principle I’ve learned.

Before I tell you the lesson, though, let me walk you through my process of discovery:

When I first began preaching, I took an entire manuscript on stage. It was a pastoral security blanket – except not pink and fuzzy. I tried not to read it directly, and in most cases, I was successful. But in my mind, it was good to know it was there… just in case I needed to snuggle.

Unfortunately, as I watched my messages the next day (it’s awkward, but you should do this if you don’t already!), I felt my preaching was lacking an important ingredient – CONNECTION. I was communicating all the content. I didn’t miss any stories, illustrations, points, or verses. But as I watched myself, I realized something significant:

Great content without great connection is poor communication.

And that was my problem. I communicated clear content without any relational connection, and it wasn’t working.

As I diagnosed my lack of connection, the problem became apparent:

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9 Tips To Improve Your Church’s Welcome Segment

How much attention do you give the welcome segment in your church service?

If you are like most churches, the answer is little to none. I mean it’s only a few minutes, anyway. How much time should we spend planning something so short and insignificant? And isn’t a “welcome” just a transitional element so the band or choir can get ready?

You might be shocked to see how much time at Watermarke Church we spend evaluating the welcome. It is only a 3-minute segment of our 60-minute service, but like every facet of our service, we desire it to be excellent, intentional, and strategic. We discuss every phrase we use. We evaluate the energy we bring. We consider how our words might be heard or interpreted by guests and non-Christians. In some ways, communicating a 3-minute welcome at Watermarke is as stressful as the 35-minute message!

Here’s a quick “welcome” in action: WATCH HERE. Come back after you watch so I can explain what you just saw!

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Video Preaching Can’t Work In Every Church, Right?

How much time per day do you look at a screen?

I know you don’t track your screen time, but if you had to guess? I would say between the laptop I’m starring at now, the TV, my iPad, Candy Crush, and my iPhone … 28 hours a day. Maybe more. You and I spend A LOT of time in front of screens. Our actual life is moving more and more towards digital life. For better or worse, the next generation is experiencing almost everything through digital media. Just go to a concert and watch how many people experience the show through their phone as they record. Life through a screen is becoming the norm. As I type this, my son is “liking” photos on Instragram, my other son is playing XBOX, and one daughter is watching Netflix. Please don’t tell their mom!

It’s safe to say, in culture, the digital ship has sailed. Which is why, when pastors and church leaders dismiss video preaching, I’m perplexed. Continue reading…

The Rules of Tension in Your Message

There is a lot to say about creating and leveraging tension in a message. It has been one of the most fascinating discoveries for me as a communicator. In an earlier post, I discussed the differences between a felt and unfelt tension. In this post, I want to discuss a few critical questions I like to use as a tension filter while developing message content. For me, every message must provide an answer or solution to one of these questions.

1. What is the question this message answers?

Every message (I understand there may be some exceptions) should provide an answer that leads to a point of application. And every answer is built upon a question. If you can identify the question at the center of your solution, you have found your tension. Now, build up that tension in the beginning of your message so you can present the answer to an audience who is ready to hear the solution.

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