Help Them Find Out How God is Leading Them to Act
From the pastor’s perspective, answering the question “What should I do?” is not always easy for one simple reason: You know what God is calling upon you to do, but you don’t always know what God is calling upon them to do.
James 3:1-12 is undeniably the most powerful message in the Bible on the tongue, and it gives a clear, practical message on taming it. There are few greater things a person can do than to take our tongue and dedicate it to the Lord, promising God that we will only use it as He directs. However, even the pastor can’t know what this means to everyone in the congregation—for one person, it might mean developing a vocabulary larger than four letter words, for another it might mean using compliments to reverse a tendency to speak negatively to people, or it might mean avoiding hearsay by only speaking of what is known to be fact.
Assist the listener by offering specific suggestions that could likely apply based on your personal knowledge of your audience. Then say, “Now go before God and ask Him what would He have you to do.” Remind them that God promises to guide us when we seek Him, and He might have something very personal in mind for us as we meditate on the sermon this week. Now the listener has ideas, but better still they know where to go to find out how to apply what’s been said. Rather than posing as a spiritual interpreter, a pastor who teaches his/her flock to confirm God’s will on their own will strengthen them in prayer and spiritual discipline.
Use Visual Resources
Many preachers use a visual resource such as a short video or drama to begin their message and to illustrate the need for the topic about to be addressed. The most effective video and drama resources connect with the viewer by posing questions shared by those in the audience, questions that will be answered by the sermon. For example, suppose a pastor will speak on harmony in the home from Ephesians 5:22-6:4. The pastor shows a short video illustrating how chaotic the home can become and how improperly families often treat one another. Moments of the video produce uproarious laughter, but while laughing the audience is listening. The video was so real, giving husbands the opportunity to look at wives, wives to look at husbands, children to look at parents and everyone to look at themselves.
Because this video resource did not try to answer questions but rather asked them, it served as a fitting introduction to the message by opening psychological doors and helped bring everyone to the topic together. In addition, when a follow-up resource is used after the message, the response can be even more effective. The same family who did wrong gets up and does it right, and the audience sees that change can and does occur. Family members leave with a visual example of what to do along with the oral direction they received in the message and the encouragement to ask God for His help.
There are many ways to answer the “What do I do?” question, but the most effective preachers make sure to do it clearly, visibly and creatively. Creativity has been called the spice of life; it’s also the spice of calls to action. Someone has said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” One idea spawns another. Don’t hesitate to bring other advisors around you and even let them help you instill variety into the service to make each application more meaningful. People will listen better, learn more, leave knowing and hopefully live differently as a result.