Home Pastors Articles for Pastors Why Knowing Your Flock Leads to Preaching Well

Why Knowing Your Flock Leads to Preaching Well

preaching well

The preacher paced the stage, staring earnestly out into the congregation. It was time for his weekly invitation. He asked for respondents to raise their hands. He may have been preaching well but not a single hand was raised. But he had no way of knowing this because he was on a video screen.

I found myself at the nearest campus of this multisite church on assignment from the pastor himself, a man who had recently hired me to do some freelance research work for him. Visiting one of his many remote services was supposed to help me get a “feel” for his ministry. It certainly did. But I couldn’t help but be struck with the feeling that this way of doing ministry couldn’t really help the preacher get a “feel” for his congregation.

I don’t know what you think about video venues or the multi-site model of church growth in general, but this experience and others has only affirmed some of the concerns I have about the disconnect between preacher and flock, a growing dilemma in all kinds of churches, big and small.

Indeed, this dilemma isn’t merely limited to multi-site “video venue” churches. Pastors of growing churches of all sizes will continually struggle with staying familiar with their congregations. And the temptation to become more and more isolated becomes greater as more complexity is added to an increasing church.

And of course, it’s impossible for a preacher of even a small church to be best friends with everybody in his church, and it’s impossible for preachers of larger churches to know everybody well. But the preacher whose ministry is becoming more and more about preaching and less and less about shepherding, the preacher who is becoming less and less involved with his congregation, is actually undermining the task to which he is trying to devote more of his time! Good preaching requires up-close shepherding.

The ministry of preaching cannot be divorced from the ministry of soul care; in fact, preaching is actually an extension of soul care. There are a host of reasons why it is important for pastors who want to preach meaningfully to know their flocks as well as they can, but here are three of the most important.

Preaching Well

1. Preaching well means having people’s idols in mind.

As I travel to preach in church services and conferences, one of the first questions I usually ask the pastor who invited me is “What are your people’s idols?” I want to be able not to just drop in and “do my thing,” but to serve this pastor and his congregation by speaking as well as I can to any of the hopes and dreams he can identify within his church that are not devotionally attached to Christ as their greatest satisfaction. Sadly, some pastors don’t know how to answer the question.

When Paul walked into Athens, he saw that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). That said, he didn’t simply regard this as a philosophical problem but as a spiritual problem that grieved him personally. And when he addressed it, he did so specifically, referencing their devotion to “the unknown god” (17:23). And whenever Paul addressed specific churches in his letters, you will see that the kinds of sins and falsehoods he addressed were very specific. He didn’t speak in generalizations. He knew what was going on in these churches.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you begin embarrassing or exposing people from the pulpit. But it does mean that you are in the thick of congregational life enough to speak in familiar terms.

Until a pastor has spent quality time with people in his congregation, the idols his preaching must combat with the gospel will be merely theoretical. All human beings have a few universal idols in common. But communities where churches are located, congregations as a subculture themselves, and even specific cliques and demographics within congregations tend to traffic in more specific idols and patterns of sin.