audience

Is Your Sermon Answering The Wrong Question?

We had only been talking a few minutes before he said, “The church is pouring resources into answering a question that Millennials aren’t really asking anymore.”

“Really? How so?”

“The church is still answering the question, ‘What happens to me after I die?’  Millennials want to know, ‘How does being a Christian make life on this earth more fulfilling?'”

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This really begs the question, is your sermon answering the wrong question? 

I’m not arguing the value of teaching salvation, I’m pointing to why it’s valuable. It’s not only some far off scenario where we die and are faced with eternity that makes a relationship with Jesus matter. Forgetting that puts the study of scripture before the transformation of a life.

Jesus changes our view, our goal, our process. 

When Jesus told the disciples to "follow me", he wasn’t inviting them to an easier life and he wasn’t asking them to meet up with him again at some moment after they die. He was engaging them, right then, into a story that would change them forever. 

That’s the question: "What’s my next step on my journey right now?”

If Jesus was standing with each individual in your audience in this exact moment, looking at where they were on their journey, what would that conversation look like? 

When we think about our audience, understand that they are coming from many different stages of their spiritual journey. 

In turn, a transformational sermon:

  1. Helps people exploring the idea of faith, take a step closer to understanding Jesus. 
  2. It helps people who are beginning a relationship with Jesus, open up the dark corners of their life to the idea of grace. 
  3. It helps people growing in their faith, the reinforcement to keep learning and keep investing in their journey. 
  4. And it helps those who already have a intimate relationship with Jesus realize his heart for those who aren’t quite there yet. 

Is your next sermon answering the wrong question? It doesn’t need to. 

For each person you are preaching to, answer this question:  "What's the next step on my spiritual journey?" 


PS. If you want help with this, take a moment to explore these 6 simple questions

3 Questions to Ask When Speaking To A New Audience

I had just been asked to speak to an audience I had never met. The good news was I had (what I thought was) a killer message in my back pocket. I had delivered it about 2 months earlier and hit “knocked ‘em dead”. It was good stuff. I agreed to speak and added it to my calendar. No prep needed...

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Okay, you’ve probably already guessed. It didn’t go well. I assumed that my new audience was similar enough to my original audience that it would go off without a hitch. I assumed wrong.

It bombed. I paused for laughs, no one laughed. I tried to make it personal with some life application but it was like talking to a room full of sleep-deprived ER nurses. They could have fallen asleep at any moment considering how non-riveting my content was. 

I made a huge assumption that I understood an audience I had never met. We might get lucky every once and a while, but when it does work, it’s more likely that we are just brining our message down to the level it connects with the broadest audience. Not specifically with our audience. Honestly, they deserve more than that. 

To overcome any assumptions we may have, I suggest asking these 3 questions whenever you plan on speaking to a new audience. 

These aren’t rhetorical questions either. 

Get on the phone, shoot out an email and ask. 

  1.  What does this new audience have in common? 

    This could be a demographic question. It could be a life stage question. It could be an occupation question. And if your answer comes back as a bullet point list, that’s even better. The more you can understand about your audience, the better. 
     
  2. Is there something specific you need to address? 

    Rather than both parties (you and the organization asking you to speak) making an assumption about your content, ask if there are any specific issues they were hoping you’d address. This can give you a better sense of what your audience is struggling with. 
     
  3. Is there anything related to the agreed upon topic that they would prefer you did not talk about? 

    What you are really doing with all three of these questions is to identify exactly where your audience is coming from. The more you understand about who they are, the more intimate you can be with your content. 

    By asking this question you make sure you fit into their current speaking plan. You would hate to cover the same thing the last speaker did. 

In the end, you want your audience to feel like you were speaking to each of them as individuals and the best way to do that is to understand who they are. 

Who knows, you might get lucky and only need to tweak that old message to serve the new audience. 

Is This Church For Me? 3 Things People Checking Out Your Church Are Looking For In Your Preaching

If your church is going to grow people are going to have to visit…and stay. It doesn’t matter if they are exploring the idea of faith or looking for a new church home, the average person is asking 3 questions when they walk through the doors of your church.

Their experience as they enter your property, check in their kids, and find a seat will be their first impression, but your preaching is going to be the place they get their biggest questions answered.

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Here are the three big questions a guest is asking when they listen to you preach:

  1. Do they understand my circumstances?

    No matter what kind of background your guest comes from, they come with experience. They come with a current life scenario and they listen to your message through that filter. Does this guy (or gal) understand what I’m dealing with? Does what they are saying even apply to my life?

    The easiest way to address this is to understand your audience make up. Make a list of every general type of person listening (completely new to faith, experienced, single, married, divorced, unemployed, etc). Then review your message from their perspective and assess whether you are addressing them in a clear and respectful manner.
     
  2. Are they judging me or helping me?

    If a guest is visiting your church they’ve either never been to church before or they’ve got some kind of baggage from another church (good or bad). They want to know what kind of friend you are going to be.

    Are you going to be the kind that is always telling them what they are doing wrong? Or are you going to be the one that listens and offers helpful, caring advice?
     
  3. Are they going to help me grow?

    Everyone that walks through the doors of your church walks through at a different “level” of spiritual maturity. Some are taking their first steps, others are learning to run on their own. Both want to know if you are going to help them take their unique next steps in faith.

    Consider clarifying what a next step looks like for each level of spiritual growth. How does any given message you preach help each person take their next spiritual step?

Just like at the beginning of any friendship, both parties are looking to see if the other listens. Do they even care or do they just like to hear themselves speak. It is no different the first time they listen to you preach.

Be a good friend, understand what they are looking for and where they are coming from. Then help them see what one step closer to Christ looks like.