The Preaching Challenge

I have been planning to write more about preaching for a while. In fact, it’s been around 2.5 years or so since I wrote One Point Preaching (a review and interaction with Stanley and Jones’ book, Communicating for a Change) and StoryMapping (two of the most popular posts on the blog).

So, I am going to write a few posts about preaching, especially sermon preparation. But first, let’s begin with some of the challenges involved in preaching today, such as …

  • The pressure of preparing fresh sermons week after week.
  • Low credibility (due to inauthenticity in the Church).
  • The perception that the church is irrelevant (which naturally hinders our influence).
  • Information overload (the teaching of God’s Word gets lost in the mix).
  • Closed-mindedness or hard-heartedness among listeners.
  • Ineffective approaches to preaching.
  • Time. With all the things a pastor does, plus interruptions and/or emergencies, sermon preparation can easily get squeezed out.

In spite of these challenges, I still believe in the value of preaching/communicating God’s Word. So, what do we do in the face of these challenges?

Choose the right goal. Stanley and Jones contend that the goal of preaching is not to “teach the Bible to people” (focus on the content), or even to “teach people the Bible” (greater focus on application but still focused on content). Rather, they argue, the goal of preaching is to “teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible” (93-95). In other words, the goal of preaching is life change — the information must lead to transformation.

Change your approach. The world has changed so much, and will continue to change, that we need to adjust our approaches to preaching from time to time in order to connect with current culture. See One Point Preaching for one approach.

Improve your preparation. Once you’ve settled on your goal and approach, then it’s time to focus on preparation. That’s what I want to continue with in the next post. Since this is something we do every week, finding a better way to prepare is critical (and there’s always a better way)!

Of course, every preacher will need to find what works for themselves, but in the next post, I’ll write about my own process of preparing sermons, which I’ve been working on recently. I invite preachers/communicators as well as those who listen to preachers/communicators to join the discussion. 🙂

3 thoughts on “The Preaching Challenge”

  1. I look forward to your next posts.

    I like Stanley’s book. It repackages a lot of basic wisdom about effective communication for preachers really well.

    I’m not convinced “life change” and “transformation” are the same thing. It is a kind of a square vs. rectangle thing. All transformation will change our life, but not all life change involve transformation in the Christian sense.

  2. Thanks, guys.

    I agree, John, re: “life change” and “transformation.” I still tend to use them interchangeably, though.

    But for some of us, *any* kind of change would be a good thing! 🙂


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