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In a recent discussion, my colleague made a passing remark that is well worth pondering for us preachers.

When the message ends, where are people focused?

Traditional preaching tends to leave listeners focused on themselves. After an introduction, compelling and gripping or otherwise, then comes the body of the message, followed by an applicational conclusion. So where are people looking as they leave? If we are not careful, they will walk out with gaze firmly fixed on self.

1. Is there a problem with fixing the gaze on self? After all, isn’t our goal to have people working harder to be good Christians? I hope we have a more gospel-oriented goal than that! The turn toward self was the fruit of the fruit tasting back in Genesis 3 (take a look at the passage and trace the “nakedness” theme starting in 2:25, for example). The turn toward self is the constant tendency of our flesh in its autonomous rebellion. The teaching of the Bible should not be throttled down to a set of to-do items that leave us self-oriented and self-concerned. To get to that we have to evaporate the very life from the Bible!

2. So where could or should listeners be looking? The Bible is God-centered and Christ-targeted. A healthy message will surely leave people more God aware and more Christ focused.

3. But what about getting better behaved believers? If all we have ever witnessed is pressured people striving to live up to the pressure of applications, perhaps it is time for an experiment ... try getting some folks’ to gaze on Christ and watch the transformation that will come. The gospel really is not about work, at least not our work. It is about Christ and His work for us. And I am convinced that while shortcuts to conformity are tempting, the harvest will be meager. Try working messages to the point that the end stress is on God and not on the listener to perform. The results may be significant in behavioral terms, and so much more.



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Phil Goward

commented on Mar 19, 2014

Thank you Peter. What has been pulling on me lately is peoples focus on being good Christians, rather than Christ-followers. And your post seemed to address that very thing--when we leave church thinking 'what else can I do', it's to be part of a group. When we leave thinking, what did He do, or what is He doing, we are focused on following Him.

James Walker

commented on Mar 19, 2014

I agree with this fresh approach. However, as in most all things; it doesn't have to be "all or nothing". Jesus' servants have to be instructed how to be good servants as well as knowing His love, majesty and power. Surely, "knowing" our Savior will make us eager to learn how to better serve him. The sheep must "look to the Shepherd" but they do so in order to know the "direction" they should go.

Chuks Ukachi

commented on Mar 20, 2014

I agree with the message, as we can not save our selves, we must look upto Jesus

Strateanu Bogdan Ciprian

commented on Mar 20, 2014

Great article!:) God bless you Pastor Peter!:) I have a question. If we only preach the gospel and don't give advise to believers about how to improve they're behaviour, couldn't seems to somebody too teorically? Sorry for my english:)

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