According to a new Gallup Poll, the number one reason Americans attend church is to hear Biblical preaching. And the numbers are high: 83 percent of Protestant worshipers cited sermons that "teach you more about scripture" as a major factor in why they go to church. Almost as many (80%) cited the importance of practical application. Or, in other words, teaching that connects our faith to daily life. Biblical preaching ranks above kids’ programs, outreach, and social activities. And it ranks way above music. Only 38 percent consider the worship band and/or choir a major factor.
What’s the lesson here? Let me mention three things:
- Preach the Bible every week. And the best way to do this is to build each sermon around one text supported with supplemental texts (one of the most important rules of Biblical interpretation is we interpret the Bible with the Bible). During the introduction, provide relevant backstory on the passage. It doesn’t have to be a seminary level history lesson. I just needs to be enough information about the author, characters and cultural surroundings so that your listeners can place the text in its proper context. This can usually be done in a matter of minutes.
- Develop major points in your message. Give people the main idea from the text and then develop points to help them further understand the text or the instructions found in the text.
- As often as possible, preach through an entire book of the Bible. There’s no better way to counter the shocking lack of Biblical knowledge in the church today than to preach verse-by-verse through the Bible. And always remember that the Holy Spirit of God works through the Word of God. Stories, illustrations and anecdotes can be entertaining, but the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God.
I hope our Mount Pleasant family understands that this has been the commitment of our church for many, many years. This past week I found myself feeling a little bit discouraged and anxious about the “heavy” content found in portions of Matthew 5, as we continue to work our way verse-by-verse through this Gospel in a study called, “Let’s Talk about Jesus.” But then I reminded myself that every single word of the Bible was written under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit and needs to be taught with clarity and passion. I can’t be responsible for how someone receives the truth of God’s Word, I can only be responsible for how its delivered.
One more thing, it’s easy to sometimes believe that a commitment to Biblical preaching is not “seeker friendly.” The idea is that someone who doesn’t know or understand God’s Word, won’t respond to God’s Word. Once again I would refer you to the truth that the Holy Spirit, who is in this world to convict people with regard to sin, works through the Word of God. We don’t make disciples through a secular approach to preaching. And stories, illustrations and anecdotes don’t provide the anchor you need when you go through the difficult challenges of life.
We live in a day and age where people need truth more desperately than ever. There’s only one source of truth. Jesus affirmed that during a significant time of prayer shortly before his arrest, trial and crucifixion. In John 17:17 he prayed this with regard to his disciples: Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (NIV)
See you in church with your Bibles (and bring a friend),