The struggle continues every time I begin planning for my next sermon. Deciding on a topic or developing the sermon is not a problem for me since I’ve been doing this for more than three decades. But I must come to a decision if this sermon should target the general crowd or the believers/disciples in the crowd.
After some study of the Bible and some soul searching, the answer I’ve come to is “Yes.” I want to preach for both the crowd and the believers. I’m pouring through the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and I believe I do need to study it further. But for now, here are my thoughts on this important issue.
1. Your message will define your audience
When you direct your messages to a general audience, you will attract more people who will benefit from your teaching. The people in your congregation will be encouraged to invite their friends. They will be confident that if their neighbor or co-worker comes, there will be a message that will benefit them. But if your messages are only for believers, you limit your reach. You will not be able to reach out to a hurting world as Jesus wanted you to.
2. The crowd won’t benefit from messages meant for disciples
If your messages are directed to believers, the crowd will not benefit. The topics are designed for those whose level of interest and commitment are beyond that of the crowd. The language and tone will be irrelevant to the crowd. They’ll vote with their feet and will not come back.
3. Disciples can benefit from messages designed for the crowd
Designing messages for the crowd can be a great creative effort. Deal with the practical aspects of life and finish with a Biblical perspective. This obviously will require topical sermons rather than textual, expository, or exegetical types.
For most of my years of preaching, I’ve focused on the latter types of preaching (textual, expository, and exegetical). But after taking a close look at the approach of Jesus, I’m going through a shift. I believe I’ll be writing more on that in later posts.
4. Give separate classes for Disciples to go deeper
Those who have made the commitment to become a disciple of Jesus are ready for deeper levels of teaching. Such teaching is necessary to keep people firmly rooted in the faith through proper, logical, and exegetical study of the Bible. I also believe the teaching should be doctrinally in line with the historical faith of the church as they have also interpreted the Scriptures and lived the Christian life.
Deeper teaching should not end with the lesson, but must lead to action. Believers should be on the quest to be like Jesus, speak like Jesus, and to do the works of Jesus. That should be the aim of the deeper teaching we give to the Disciples of Jesus today.
5. Go after the crowd
So, how did you like my title “Shallow, Lifeless, Pop Style, Self Help, and Self Centered Preaching”? These are the words of criticism I hear so often when people preach to the crowd. It’s a tough call, but I’ll have more on this later.
For now, don’t ignore the crowd. Jesus didn’t. He preached for them. He invited them. Some of the deeper stuff didn’t sit well with the crowd, but he still continued to focus on the crowd. Then he told his disciples – us – to go after the crowd.