Pastor, no one on the planet bears more responsibility for motivating a group of people than you.
W. A. Criswell, one of my own preaching heroes, defined preaching as “seeking to move a man’s will God-ward.” He went on to define teaching as “instructing that man in the will and ways of the Lord.” I agree with the late Dr. Criswell that both are the tasks of the local church pastor, but it was his definition of preaching that captured my heart. At the end of every message, I want to issue a strong appeal to my congregation to do at least three things:
- Consider the truth I have presented.
- Understand the personal application of it.
- Act on it.
Motivation is not the primary goal of preaching – seeing lives transformed by the gospel is. But motivation is near the top of the list of priorities in preaching. At the end of our expounding of the Scriptures, people need to know what to do with what we just said, and they need to be provoked to take action lest they be hearers of the Word and not doers.
Therefore, when I preach, I try to do certain things.
Connect the ancient text with the audience’s modern context.
This requires proper exegesis of the grammar of the text at hand, a growing and thorough knowledge of the whole counsel of God, and an understanding of the historical setting of the Word. But it also demands that we tune into the culture around us in order to construct the bridge from “then and there” to “here and now.”
Illustrate the truth from my experience.
My most impacting sermons are always those in which I become real and transparent with the audience, expressing my own struggles with the truth and the issues with which we are wrestling. This doesn’t mean I’m always bearing all the ugly details of my sins, but it does mean that I’m willing to openly display my struggles. It is in those moments that something changes in the room. People begin to connect, listen, and consider that perhaps they too have hope in overcoming these shared struggles.
Issue a clear call to action.
One of the most important questions to ask at the end of your sermon preparation is, “So what?!” Or to put it more gently, “What’s next?” And calling people to action is not reserved for the end of the sermon; I do it in the points of the message as often as possible. This means that each of my “points” is really a verb. It’s a “to do.”
Remember, the goal of Scripture isn’t to transfer information, but to instigate transformation, so make it clear and make it motivational!