There are people we encounter, every day, who are hopeless.
There are people who feel like life doesn't matter.
People who feel unloved.
People who are isolated or in broken relationships.
One of the joys of being a pastor is to share the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many fantastic pastors out there. There are men and women who share the truth of Christ in compelling ways. Just this weekend I had a lady in our church had me this note. I was stoked to see what she wrote on the front of the envelope.
Helping people find hope isn't always easy. When I preach I aim to impact people in three areas:
HeadOne area I want to impact when preaching is the mind. People are smart! Kids are smart, students are smart, people of all ages are smart. I recently spoke at Mount Hermon for a summer camp. During one of my sermons I told students that I think they are smart. Too ofter their friends are telling them they are dumb. They have a sibling who is saying: "you don't understand this." They may even have a parent who insults their intelligence. When we tell people they are smart they start to believe they are smart.
When preaching never talk down to people but call them to something greater. Speak in a way they understand and a way that engages their mind. Know your audience and use words that will appropriately challenge their thinking and engage their mind. I've found that sometimes we expect people to check their brain at the door of the church and only use their heart; this is a practice that needs to change. We want people to think critically about the truth of God.
Our minds need to be stimulated. Preach in such a way to engage the mind. Make people think! Preach to their intellect and show them the truth of God. The next time you're writing a sermon think of ways to challenge people's thinking. I don't mean challenge in a defensive way, but in a way that requires them to think critically about God's word. It could be what you say, but it could also be how you say something. There are times I've intentionally said something in a confusing way to make sure people are listening.
HeartIn addition to preaching to the head it's important to grab the heart. When you're communicating you want to grab the hearts of the people. There are times I've done this by sharing a story that evokes emotion. It's a story that calls on the compassionate side each person has. For example, there was a sermon I preached from the Old Testament about caring for orphans. Most people agree that we need to care for orphans. But to grab the heart I shared a clip from the Blind Side.
Show a clip like this to appeal to someone's heart. I'm not saying show a clip like this to abuse a person's emotion. A clip like this can impact a person in a unique way. You can also tell a story about a time you experienced an emotional time. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable in your stories and share about times where you feel like you've failed. People can relate to that.
Knowing we are multifaceted people means we need to preach multifaceted sermons. It's good to engage the heart in addition to the head. Engage both in creative ways that are meaningful to your audience and appropriate to their age and stage of life.
HandsThe final part of a person a great sermon will engage is the hands. The hands are when the sermon calls us to action. You might have a sermon that talks about helping the poor but if you never give people a chance to help the poor that is a miss. You may preach a sermon about missions but not everyone can go on a mission trip so how will engage the hands?
One of the most impactful ways I've seen this done is in the context of sharing the truth of Christ with a person in your life. I've met many of people who have been invited to church by a friend. When the text your preaching has a clear call to reach people who are far from God (Think of Luke 15) you can think of ways to engage the hands of people. Talk about inviting your neighbor, co-worker or friend to church with you. Your church might even want to have a special service in the following weeks where everyone is encouraged to invite a friend.
But it's not only with evangelism, missions or serving the poor. A call to action could come from a sermon on giving. The last I heard was that the average America spends 127% of their income. Let that figure sit in for a minute. To help a person be a generous giver means a lot of work needs to be done. Some people need to put their hands to work in changing their budget. Some fathers need to become more engaged with their families. Some single people need to keep their hands to themselves and put them on the Bible more!
When we think about sermons that bring hope we can know it will include these three areas. Sermons that bring engage the head, heart and hands.