Stop Assuming the People You Preach to Agree with You

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Two things happened recently that has really made me think about my preaching and the preaching of others.

One was at the Preach the Word conference where Justin Anderson made the comment, “Stop assuming people agree with what you believe. Unchurched people don’t agree with your beliefs, most of the churched people don’t agree with your beliefs, stop assuming.” He went on to say, “Pastors need to say less and prove more.”

Think for a minute all the statements that pastors make in their sermons, with little context or explanation. Assuming that everyone is on board with basic biblical truths like: everyone is a sinner, apart from Jesus you’ll spend eternity in hell, God loves you, Jesus rose from the dead, you have an idol that you worship.

Let me be the first to say, I am guilty of this. I have really been growing in this area in the last year thanks to the mentoring of Justin and others.

Then, in the aftermath of the tornado in Oklahoma came this interview on CNN:

Here are a few things this means for pastors:

  1. Explain things more. One of the things a good communicator does is explain what they mean. Too many pastors and communicators simply think everyone knows what they are talking about. I will very rarely use the words justification, sovereignty of God, sanctification, or gospel. I believe in all of them and love the truth of them. The problem is some people have no idea what you are talking about or have the wrong idea. I used to say gospel over and over in a sermon and one day someone asked, “Why do you keep saying gospel in your sermon? You aren’t preaching from a gospel.” Others see the word gospel simply as what gets you to heaven. Instead of saying sanctification I’ll talk about becoming the person Jesus created you to be. Now, as a pastor if you do this, you’ll get push back from the people who want “deep” preaching. That’s okay.
  2. Talk about why you believe things. If a pastor says something in a sermon, something they believe to be true about God or the gospel, explain why you believe that. If you are talking about grace and forgiveness, talk about why you believe those things. Show from Scripture and from your life how you’ve seen them to be true. Too often pastors simply give the finished product. They wrestle with a text or concept alone in their study and then say, “Here’s where I landed.” It is helpful to show some of that struggle and share some of that for your church.
  3. Have less points. I’ve talked about this too many times to count. If you have more than one point in a sermon, you are wasting a lot of time. Your church can’t remember more than one point and you can’t remember more than one point. Say your one point, a lot.
  4. Affirm the questions people have, don’t dismiss them. You as a pastor have questions, so do the people in your church. You don’t have to answer them all every week in every sermon, but affirm that their questions exist and are real. People wonder why God doesn’t heal them, why their spouse walked out, why getting fired could be God’s plan for them or if they are being punished for something. They wonder if hell exists or if Jesus really is the hero of all things. Affirm those questions. Tell them they are real and okay to ask. People in Scripture have doubts and unbelief and Jesus engages them.

What other assumptions do pastors make when they preach?

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9 thoughts on “Stop Assuming the People You Preach to Agree with You

  1. When you say “have one point” do you mean literally saying, “My first point is …” and then after saying that, “Let’s pray.” Or do you mean rather, make sure you’re sermon is just about one thing?

  2. Also, your post seems to support the helpful pneumonic: State, place, prove in hermeneutics. State your proposition. Show in the text where it says that. Prove to your hearers that that’s what it means.

  3. As a person who sits in the pews instead of standing on the stage, let me say:

    1). Preach in away that those big words you guys tend to use (and there are tons of them) have been explained enough that the new person in the seat will understand it and the lady next to her that has been there for ages can recall the meaning.(it’s not over-stated, we can always use the refresher.)

    2). Remember that YOUR job is nearly 24/7 God; reading, studying, preparing your sermon, about Him, for Him, to Him… where us “pew people”, yeah are jobs aren’t like that, and for most of us, our jobs aren’t in a place that it’s encouraged to share or it’s not an environment like that of a church office. We don’t have meetings on how to reach the masses concerning Jesus. So more than one main idea in your sermon is too much.

    3). Remember Jesus called us sheep for a reason. We need some plain english! You’ve spent a lot of time preparing what you are saying. You know it inside and out. We are just hearing it for the first time, all at once, trying to take in everything you are saying while also thinking of how it applies to us and our walk.

    4). Keep coming back to your point. I can’t tell you how many times in group that it has been discussed (and I mean in all groups that I’ve ever been in) that I’ve heard people say “yeah when he started talking about his football playing days in high school, while it was funny, I totally forgot that he was making a point about something Nehemiah did.” Seriously. This is truth.

    5). Repeat, repeat, repeat. You know how many times I had to hear “spotless, blameless, right standing before God” before it really sunk in? A lot. I’m not the exception. I’m the rule.

  4. Do the sermons that you share apply to people who attend your church only or to anyone who listens including those of us online? I have been listening to the sermon series on the book of John and it has really encouraged and challenged me.

  5. Pingback: Let’s Pretend | Anointed Place Ministries

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