Thursday, March 13, 2014
Connecting to the Congregation through Preaching
One of the things I have learned over the years is how to "read" an audience. I can tell when the congregation is tracking with my sermon and understanding the truth I am trying to convey. I can also tell when they have checked out mentally and are no longer keyed into what I am saying. Most of the time whether they are tracking or not has a lot to do with how well I have prepared the sermon, both in the sense of studying, developing good illustrations and praying for the Spirit's power. But over the years it has become apparent to me that some churches are just more tuned in to the Word and hearing the Spirit speak than others. For example, I recently preached the exact same sermon to two different churches. It was a fairly deep topic. One church that I spoke at, which was in rural Connecticut, the congregation clearly understood the message. They got the point and it was obvious in how they reacted. In the other church, I faced mostly blank stares as I preached the very same words to them. In that situation it was not the sermon, but the hearers of the Word that made a difference.
Pastors definitely need to invest time during the week in study, application and prayer. But I think members of the congregation should as well. Hearts that are in tune with God daily through prayer and personal Bible study also hear the Word more clearly on Sunday. We need to teach our congregations to spend time in the Word themselves and not just expect the pastor to spoon feed them on Sunday morning. The pastor carries part of the weight of a good sermon, but so does the congregation. We need to help our congregation realize that if the pastor's sermons are a bit dry and just do not seem to connect, perhaps part of the problem is in the congregation, not just with the pastor. Fortunately, we have a God who can enable us to fix that as we study the Word daily and pray for God's wisdom in our lives.