Preaching to Everyone In Particular
Preaching to Everyone In Particular
One of the greatest challenges I faced in preaching was to relate to my entire audience, or, as the title of this post describes, “preaching to everyone in particular”. In the last congregation I served, Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven, MI, there were doctors, Phd’s, teachers, businessmen and lawyers. There were also people who hadn’t finished high school, those who worked in manufacturing, and homeless people. In addition, we had new Christians, who knew little about the Bible. And we had several people who were theologically educated, one of whom brought his Greek New Testament to Church with him.
How do you relate to all of them in a single message? I took the title for this post from Haddon Robinson’s book, Making a Difference in Preaching. A committed preacher will be preaching to everyone in particular in his/her messages. How do you do it?
Preach to Everyone In Particular By Expanding Your Knowledge Base
My daughter recently told me of something that offended her in her church. First of all, you need to know that my daughter is a scientist, with a PhD in Biotechnology. She teaches in a local college. With that background, she is very sensitive to what a pastor says about science and scientists. She was quite amazed, then, when the pastor who was preaching disparaged science, and said that it doesn’t give us answers about what holds everything together (a reference to Colossians 1:17).
My daughter decided to write him a rather lengthy email, letting him know that science does have an answer for these kinds of question. The answers given don’t do away with faith, nor disparage faith. And she referred him to several things to read that would expand his knowledge base.
Preaching to Everyone
This pastor had failed in the task of preaching to everyone in particular in his message. He needed to learn more. If you are going to be faithful in the task of preaching to everyone in particular you, too, will need to keep on learning about the things that are known by the people in your congregation.
How do you do that? You listen. One pastor regularly hosts luncheons with a few congregation members at a time, and listens to them describe their lives and livelihoods. Another consults people in his church when he is going to say something in a sermon that will touch their area of expertise. One pastor that I am aware of intentionally seeks out people who are not like the majority in his church. That group includes ethnic minorities and people on various sides of political and moral issues. He listens, without judgment, to them, with a desire to understand.
Preach to Everyone in Particular By Passing Your Sermon Preparation through “Grids”
One of the best ways to go about preaching to everyone in particular is to think through various “grids” when preparing a message. Haddon Robinson gives an example of a time that he was going to preach a message about the Shrewd Manager, found in Luke 16. He thought about how his message was going to be received by a variety of people in the congregation.
One person was a widow, who had inherited a lot of money. This woman had said to him at one time that having a lot of money is something of a curse, because it forced her to take God seriously with every sermon about money. So Robinson thought about how people with significant funds would hear the message.
A second person he thought of was a “working poor person”. For that person, for whom money was not in abundance, he put into the message a part about how God doesn’t care how much we give, but he measures the heart.
And a third group, or grid, that he considered was a visitor. How would a visitor interact with the message? Some people complain that “All the Church does is ask for money”.
It was with these three people in mind that he informed his message.
I’m going to continue this subject in the next post. But here is the perspective of a speech coach on this subject. It’s a different viewpoint, but a good one.
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