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There is a world of difference between preaching a sermon and living a sermon. No amount of study can compensate for deficiencies in your life. You can “study it” but if you aren’t “living it” it’ll ring hollow. 

The opposite is true as well. Jesus’ teaching was authoritative because it was backed up by his life. You can’t back up your sermons with a seminary degree. You’ve got to back it up with your life. My advice? Don’t just get a sermon. Get a life. Then you’ll get a sermon!

Let me be blunt: If your life is boring, your sermons will be, too.

If you have no life outside of church—no hobbies, no friends, no interests, no goals—your illustrations will feel canned, your applications will feel theoretical instead of practical and your sermons will be lifeless instead of life-giving.

The greatest sermons are not fashioned in the study. They are fleshed out in the laboratory of everyday life. Now please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying.  You need to study to show yourself approved and rightly divide the word. So keep studying! In fact, study more. But you can’t just study the word. You need to live it. The most powerful sermons are well-studied and well-lived.

At the end of the day, God won’t say, “Well studied, good and faithful servant.” He won’t say, “Well thought” or “Well said” either. There is only one commendation: “Well done.”

Now let’s be brutally honest: Most Christians are educated way beyond the level of their obedience already! We don’t need to know more, we need to do more. That’s why I think sermons should focus on application more than interpretation. Theological doesn’t mean theoretical. In fact, as you get a life, your messages will be less theoretical and more experiential. You won’t just preach your sermons. You’ll incarnate them!



Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. One church with multiple locations, the vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. Focused on reaching emerging generations, 73% of NCCers are single twenty-somethings. And 70% of NCCers were unchurched or dechurched before attending. Mark is the author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and blogs @ www.markbatterson.com. He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

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Arun Paul

commented on Oct 2, 2014

THANKS FOR MUCH NEEDED, TIMELY, AND AN EXCELLENT ADVICE. IT WAS ALSO PRECISE AND TO THE POINT. WELL DONE, PASTOR MARK!

Douglas Dean

commented on Oct 2, 2014

Thank you for pastor Mark for your inspiring words. I agree with you that we have to get a life, to live it before we can preach it. I think also that no biblical truth can be fully grasped or preached until you have experienced it in every day life . I am talking about pain, sorrow, rejection, divine provisions , dailly trusting God, living the sermon on the mount today, hearing God's voice , amazing answers to prayer , surely no greater joy than Almihghty God reponding to requests for miracles So I read many times about abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10 v10 but now i have experinenced it so now i can preach it . Yes you so right about getting a life. the abundant life of Jesus then we live it and preach it . WOW Then our sermons can not possibly be boring. Pastor Douglas Dean

Douglas Dean

commented on Oct 2, 2014

I want to add further comments and say yes we neeed to get a life and the preach. Yes we still need to study and to pray before about our message and also we still need Holy spirit anointing.. What potential for a sermon Holy Spirit anointing on the abundant life of Jesus speaking through us mere human channels. WOW so thanks again for your inspiration . God bless you in your ministry Douglas Dean

Richard Rodriguez

commented on Oct 2, 2014

They know what scripture says we simply have not given them the tools they need to apply it in their daily lives. The popular 7 Mountain revelation is an awsome place for us to begin training instead of just educating.

Mutagana Moses

commented on Oct 2, 2014

Thanks pastor for you can not give what you don't have

Mutagana Moses

commented on Oct 2, 2014

Thanks pastor for you can not give what you don't have

Balemba Samuel Mukete

commented on Oct 2, 2014

Much Blessing Man of God.Thanks for your advice to all the spiritual leaders who have been dedicated by our Lord Jesus to preache His words all over the world.Man of God i think a sermon must not come from your daily life (flesh),but from the Holy spirit which never sound to be boring.

Zeke Evaro

commented on Oct 2, 2014

AT THE END OF THE DAY, JESUS SAID "PREACH MY GOSPEL, NOT SONG AND DANCE.

Glenn Hawkins

commented on Oct 2, 2014

So, it sounds like living the sermon, at first means being faithful to obey what the Lord commands. But then you talk about "getting a life" -- meaning to get hobbies and other "outside the church" interests. Looks to me as though "getting a life" isn't about obedience to God's word but having other interests. You seem to say that unless one has "a life" then the preacher's illustrations will be lifeless. Really, Mark? Seems to me that when a preacher lives in disobedience that his messages will be lifeless because the power of the Spirit is arrested in his life. But to say because one "doesn't have a life" -- as defined as not having outside interests, then the preacher can't preach good messages. I really don't think that insignifcant people like, say, Martin Luther would agree with you. See, he had some inconvenient things to do, like pray for at least 3 hours a day. I wonder, if we were to spend as much time praying as Luther did rather than"getting a life by getting other interests" , that we might be as powerfully used by the Lord?

Glenn Hawkins

commented on Oct 2, 2014

And don't you think that if Christians were really educated in what the Scripture actually and correctly says and MEANS, then, with the Holy Spirit being the teacher that He could also give them many applications? It seems to me that what our job description as pastors is, is to "equip the saints for the work of ministry." This includes first and foremost, not mere education of the word, as viewed through 21st century American eyes, but as God intended it--through the eyes and hearts of those who first heard it and then, once that foundation is laid to bridge the "gap" between "back then" and now. Why is it that we have people like Victoria Osteen saying, and even defending her comment that "we worship God, not for Him but for ourselves, and few people rise up and give an outrcy? Could it be that we in the American church might not be as educated in the truth as one might think? Indeed, when the disciples asked the Lord Jesus as to when He would return, the very first words were, "don't be deceived." Perhaps we need to start there, to train the people under our care to not be deceived by false doctrine. I know that might sound a bit old fashioned and it might not get posteriors in seats, but who's church is it, anyway? If it is the Lord's church, shouldn't we let Him worry about the posteriors in seats?

Scott Doster

commented on Oct 3, 2014

Good morning Friend, I think the author is trying to relay a message that you already uphold. It is recorded that Martin Luther did pray for up to 3 hours a day and was used mightily by God. But that only records part of his spiritual life and if he were to give a seminar on prayer, we would certainly would listen because he had established his credibility by praying often and with longevity; however, if he only prayed and never developed relationships with people by getting involved in other's lives then he missed the other half of the "Great Commandment" to love other's. For a Christian (pastor) to be most effective not only to they have to have a relationship with God we also need to have a relationship with others and like Martin Luther live as an example to people without neglecting them. I have heard it said it like this, "you can be so 'spiritually' minded that you are no 'earthly' good". Personally, I think that Christians (pastors) have more credibility when they live what they preach; and, those in their sphere of influence will trust them more if they see them live what they preach.

Glenn Hawkins

commented on Oct 3, 2014

Scott, Absolutely re: living what they preach. The trouble I have with this article is that Mark seems to be comparing apples to oranges. "Getting a life" as he describes it, is not the same as obedience to the word of God. "Getting a life" as in getting hobbies, interests and goals can all be done by oneself--without others. If a pastor developed a love for fishing by himself, for example, he would be doing what Mark is suggesting. So, how is that living out the Great Commission? Mark, in my opinion, is confusing obedience to the Word of God (and consequently living out what is to be preached before the preacher goes to the pulpit--I can't tell you how many times that has happened) and "getting a life". Small church pastors, such as myself often don't have time to get a life. My small flock takes up a lot of my time. We are too small to have multiple staff members. I don't have hobbies. The vast majority of my waking hours is spent serving my family and being available for those the Lord has graciously allowed me to pastor. I really don't think my messages are lifeless (many have told me how meaningful the messages are, though some tell me they are too long at times!). And as for the comment (spiritually minded . . .), to be really blunt, is in my opinion, a lie from the pit--of hell. Since when has God called anybody to be "earthly" good? If it's true, then it's true whether a follower of Christ lives in Nashville or Nairobi. How many of our brothers and sisters are "no earthly good" and are paying the price for following Jesus with their lives? Can any American follower of Christ with a straight face say that they are not doing well because they are no earthly good? If I read my Bible right, I believe the only thing we are to be is faithful to Him. Regarding "getting a life", what about Pastor Saeed Abidini,who is a faithful brother in Christ, rotting in an Iranian jail because of his faith in Christ? Because he "has nothing else to do" as in he doesn't have a "life" as Mark describes it, he has led many, many people to Christ. Scott, please don't think I'm angry at you or Mark. This post is not intended to incite anything other than stir us as American Christians to be thinking of a more universal life in Christ than just "getting a life". I do stand by my statement, though. If we learn radical obedience, and not just "drawing prayer circles", then my contention is that we won't need to "get a life". We will be living the life--and our illustrations and sermons will be anything but boring. BTW, if the sermons are boring--they are boring to whom? People really walking in the Spirit and seeking with all their heart to worship the Lord on Sunday mornings? Or is it that we must try to be an entertainer? I don't thing Jonathan Edwards had any trouble in his life-neither do I think he had, by Mark's description "had a life". Neither George Mueller, who completely poured out his life for the sake of the thousands of orphans he took care of throughout his life.

Bramwell Bearcroft

commented on Oct 4, 2014

I agree with you Mark. I spent 6 weeks in the States and Canada this summer and was horrified at some of the 'preaching' I heard on the radio. I am an Anglican Priest (working in France) and I have a single figure golf handicap. You would not believe how many doors have opened to me because I have a life outside the church!

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