Preaching Articles

Pastor, no one on the planet bears more responsibility for motivating a group of people than you.

W. A. Criswell, one of my own preaching heroes, defined preaching as “seeking to move a man’s will God-ward.” He went on to define teaching as “instructing that man in the will and ways of the Lord.” I agree with the late Dr. Criswell that both are the tasks of the local church pastor, but it was his definition of preaching that captured my heart. At the end of every message, I want to issue a strong appeal to my congregation to do at least three things:

  • Consider the truth I have presented.
  • Understand the personal application of it.
  • Act on it.

Motivation is not the primary goal of preaching—seeing lives transformed by the gospel is. But motivation is near the top of the list of priorities in preaching. At the end of our expounding of the Scriptures, people need to know what to do with what we just said, and they need to be provoked to take action lest they be hearers of the Word and not doers.

Therefore, when I preach, I try to do certain things.

Connect the ancient text with the audience’s modern context.

This requires proper exegesis of the grammar of the text at hand, a growing and thorough knowledge of the whole counsel of God, and an understanding of the historical setting of the Word. But it also demands that we tune into the culture around us in order to construct the bridge from “then and there” to “here and now.”

Illustrate the truth from my experience.

My most impacting sermons are always those in which I become real and transparent with the audience, expressing my own struggles with the truth and the issues with which we are wrestling. This doesn’t mean I’m always baring all the ugly details of my sins, but it does mean that I’m willing to openly display my struggles. It is in those moments that something changes in the room. People begin to connect, listen, and consider that perhaps they too have hope in overcoming these shared struggles.

Issue a clear call to action.

One of the most important questions to ask at the end of your sermon preparation is, “So what?!” Or to put it more gently, “What’s next?” And calling people to action is not reserved for the end of the sermon; I do it in the points of the message as often as possible. This means that each of my “points” is really a verb. It’s a “to do.”

Remember, the goal of Scripture isn’t to transfer information, but to instigate transformation, so make it clear and make it motivational!

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Chet Gladkowski

commented on Aug 3, 2012

Thought - all pastors are motivators. The questions are towards what and how effective. An uninteresting or boring sermon (or life for that matter) does motivate, but away from God, repentance and the good He has called us to do. Part of God's calling is to be available and burnable before God, His people and a watching world. May God give us His power and grace to live and speak His truth in an attractive way to be effective fishers of men.

David Buffaloe

commented on Aug 3, 2012

I agree. Great article.

Scott Dossett

commented on Aug 3, 2012

Actually, the goal of Scripture is revelation. Motivation must come from Spirit. If our "focus" is on motivation, there is danger for leaders to become controllers or - perhaps just as dangerous - for leaders to take the responsibility of a people's actions on themselves. That said, encouragement and exhortation certainly have a place in preaching - I'm just not convinced it should be the PRIMARY place.

Mark Nielson

commented on Aug 3, 2012

The word tells us that we must be "doers of the word and not hearers only"! Several years ago I started thinking in terms of conclude my sermon with some concrete, objective "action steps"! This is what you can "DO" to put this truth into practice.

Andrew Shields

commented on Aug 3, 2012

The Holy Spirit is the change agent. The Word is the message. Pastors encourage, lead, and motivate. Good article in general but quite a contrast to recent articles that say that motivation must come from a personal interaction with God. Also motivation and being motivational must be tempered withperhaps one of the greatest pastoral characteristics PATIENCE.

Mark Nielson

commented on Aug 3, 2012

Andrew...your point is a good one and very important! For anything to happen in our lives that is of eternal significance it must come from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "apart from me you can do nothing!" We must be "in Christ" before we can effectively "do for Christ"! Giving people something specific (action step) can certainly be Holy Spirit driven. We must never just preach self help...we all need God's help to make positive changes and to do for His Kingdom!

Andrew Shields

commented on Aug 3, 2012

The Holy Spirit is the change agent. The Word is the message. Pastors encourage, lead, and motivate. Good article in gneral bbut quite a contrast to recent articles that say that motivation must come from a personal interaction with God.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Aug 3, 2012

Brothers Mark and Andrew: it's not either or, but both and. We are not passive in the process. Brother Scott: "The goal of Scripture is revelation"? No, Scripture IS revelation. You probably meant that the goal of preaching is exposition of Scripture. Nevetheless, I would point you to the following passages: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2Ti 4:1-2). Exhortation doesn't just have a place in preaching, it's characteristic of preaching, along with rebuke and reproof. "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (Tit 2:15). Passionate preaching with practicle instruction and letting the Spirit do His work are NOT mutually exclusive.

Daniel Hocker

commented on Aug 11, 2012

Paul writes to the church at Corinth, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." After Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach...", he said to those in attendance, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." We can do some some "hair splitting" here, but I understand the challenge that Brandon presents to us and respond with a hearty "Amen." If we are called and Spirit-filled, then the Holy Spirit in us will motivate through us. He could have sent angels to do this job, but He chose to to call us, and I wish to express my gratitude to Brandon for the challenge he issues in this article.

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