I am always asked why I park my car in backward, and the answer is simple. I know that at some point I will be leaving, so I begin with the “end” in mind.
What’s the desired “end” of your preaching?
A consultant once asked our leadership team what the desired “end” of each Sunday service should be. I shouted, “Evangelism.” She said, “Wrong!” Another person said, “Teaching.” She said, “Wrong!” Worship? Fellowship? Ministry? Service? “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”
She paused and said, “To bring people into an ‘experience’ with God.”
People do not need information as much as an “experience” with a Person. The gospel is not only a list of propositional truths but a Person, and in the end, preaching must lead to an “experience” with that Person.
Therefore, let me share with you a simple three-step process that might help your preaching achieve that “end.”
First, you must pray that you “experience” God in your sermon preparation. While writing a novel, I was once told that authors write non-fiction, but fictional characters come alive and write their own story. If you do not have a powerful God-experience in your sermon preparation, it is likely that your congregation won’t experience Him in your sermon delivery.
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of humanwisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:4-5)
We must wait while we prepare, pray while we study, listen while we write and cry out for His message. Just as fictional characters move the pen as you write, God must move your heart as you prepare.
Secondly, you must prayerfully exegete your audience. It is far too easy to see a room full of “I love Jesus” smiles and think that everyone is fine. The more informed your burden for the people is, the more genuine your passion will be. The better you understand the torture of someone’s prison, the harder you will try to get them out.
A few testimonies and prayer requests will intelligently attach your heart to your congregation’s plight. You need to ask, “How different is your worldview from theirs? How will they react to your clothes? Physical appearance? Will they understand your Christianese version of English?”
Finally, during your final preparation and the delivery, prayerfully merge your God-encounter with your people-burden. Ask God for one-liners, insight into how to apply Scripture specifically to your audience. Practice talking to the congregation. Begin pleading with and for their souls. Ask God to consume every fiber of your physical, emotional and spiritual being with His message.
If you do these things, you should wake up on gameday with your spiritual engine running. Rivers of living water should be pressing against your heart, anxiously waiting for you to preach. Then all you have to do is step into the pulpit and surrender yourself to your delivery.