Q: Preaching to Believers & Seekers

I got asked last week and I’ve been asked this by leaders from time to time, but the question goes like this, “How do you preach to believers and seekers?”

This question begins with what I believe is false thinking, that believers and seekers have different needs.

I want to be clear, believers and seekers are in different places on their spiritual journey. A person who walks into a church who has been walking with Jesus for 30 years compared to someone who has walked in for the first time, are in different places. They ask different questions. They’ll even tell you they have different needs. But in reality, they are looking and asking the same thing, just in different ways.

Those who do not yet follow Jesus are asking, “How can I save my marriage? Communicate with my teenager? Get my finances in order? Find happiness in life?” They may even be asking deeper philosophical questions like, “Why did God allow that to happen in my life? Is God real or is this just a cosmic accident?”

Those who are followers of Jesus are asking, “How do I grow in my relationship with Jesus? How do I pray? Read my Bible?” They are also asking,¬†“How can I save my marriage? Communicate with my teenager? Get my finances in order? Find happiness in life?” They may even be asking deeper philosophical questions like, “Why did God allow that to happen in my life? Is God real or is this just a cosmic accident?”

Each person who walks into a church on the weekend or a missional community during the week wants to know if John 10:10b is true. Does Jesus promise life? What is this life? How do I get it?

Now to be clear, no one has ever walked up to me and asked this question, but underneath the questions people ask, the prayer requests people list, the hurt in their eyes as we pray over them at Revolution, they want to know this. Is there life? How do I get it?

In the end, believers and seekers are asking the same thing, they are asking a gospel question.

This is one of the reasons I love preaching through books of the Bible. Every single week I will have multiple conversations that start like this, “how did you know that was exactly what I needed to hear” or “how did you know I was wrestling with that this week?” The funny thing about that is we plan our sermons 12 months in advance.

Now, when you preach to each of these groups, you will have to do some things differently. Believers will give you the benefit of the doubt. Often if you say something is in the Bible, they’ll believe. Seekers are more skeptical. They want to know why they should trust you, believe you. They often think you have something up your sleeve, like you are selling them a bill of goods.

This is another advantage to preaching through books of the Bible. You simply preach the next line in the book, the next verse, the next topic. They are able to open the Bible and see where you are, that you aren’t making it up.

What do you think? Are believers and seekers asking the same question?

7 thoughts on “Q: Preaching to Believers & Seekers

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  2. Hi Josh,

    Like you I preach every Sunday, and like you I must think through at some level what the people coming are thinking. I LOVE the fact that you preach through books of the Bible and that people are being fed. May your tribe increase!

    I can’t help but wonder however if there isn’t a more stable way for us preachers to develop our preaching vis-a-vis our hearer’s questions…. For instance, where in the Bible are we even encouraged to do think through our hearer’s questions? hmmm. Now don’t misread me – it is something we will do and should do simply becasue we are shepherds. But there is something missing in our equations of People’s Questions + Bible Preaching = Blessing. And I think it’s this: people’s needs and questions are deeper than they admit or know, and are often subterfuges masking their spiritual needs before a holy God.

    Two quick evidences, and then I’ll make my point. 1) No one comes to church knowing the true needs of their heart – in fact our heart deceives us (Jer. 17:9). This also means when people say “that’s just what I needed” could likely be the heart’s subterfuge as well. 2) You admit this, or come close to it when you write, “Now to be clear, no one has ever walked up to me and asked this question…” How then can you confidently assert, “In the end, believers and seekers are asking the same thing”? That’s not true because regeneration fundamentally alters the person: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” while every non-Christian is God’s enemy, no?

    Here’s my point. Feel free to think through people’s needs and their questions. Come up with your answers. Then throw them out and place no confidence in your speculations. The human heart is too deep. Rely on the “Heart-knower” – the Holy Spirit of God (Jer. 17:10). This will free you up to preach the text with new power and authority. By this I mean the doctrine of the text rather than it’s application ought to be your main concern. Clearly make that understood and the Heart-knower will apply it most wisely. We have His word on it.

    Love in Christ,
    Ted

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