Primer on Preaching Like Jesus, Part Two
- 2. Jesus Related Truth to Life
I love the practicality
and simplicity of Jesus teaching. It was clear, relevant, and applicable. He
aimed for application because his goal was to transform people, not merely inform
Consider the greatest sermon ever preached, The Sermon on the
- Jesus began by sharing eight secrets of genuine happiness;
- Then he talked about living an exemplary lifestyle, controlling anger,
restoring relationships, and the issues of adultery and divorce.
he spoke of keeping promises and returning good for evil.
- Then Jesus
moved on to other practical life issues like how to give with the right attitude,
how to pray, how to store up treasure in heaven, and how to overcome worry.
wraps up his message by telling us to not judge others, encouraging persistence
when asking God to meet our needs, and warning us about false teachers.
he concludes with a simple story that emphasizes the importance of acting on what
hes taught: Put into practice what youve just learned!
the kind of preaching that we need in churches today. It changes lives! Its
not enough to simply proclaim, Christ is the Answer. We must show the unchurched
how Christ is the Answer. Sermons that exhort people to change without sharing
the practical steps of how to change only produce more guilt and frustration.
A lot of preaching today is what I call, Aint it awful! preaching. It
just complains about our society and makes judgments about people in general.
Its long on diagnosis and short on remedy. It makes Christians feel superior
to those out there but it rarely changes anything. Instead of lighting a candle,
it just curses the darkness.
When I go to a doctor, I dont want to just
hear whats wrong with me, I want him to give me some specific steps to getting
better. What people need today is less ought-to sermons and more how-to sermons.
Exhortation without explanation leads to frustration.
Some pastors today
criticize life-application preaching as shallow, simplistic, and inferior. To
them the only real preaching is didactic, doctrinal preaching. Their attitude
implies that Paul was more profound than Jesus; that Romans is deeper material
than the Sermon on the Mount or the Parables. I call that heresy!
kind of teaching is that which makes a difference in peoples day-to-day lives.
As D.L. Moody once said, The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge
but to change our lives. The goal is Christ-like character.
said, I have come that you might have life. He didnt say, Ive come that you
might have religion. Christianity is a life, not a religion, and Jesus was a
life-application preacher. When he finished his teaching to the Crowd he always
wanted them to go and do likewise.
Christ-like preaching explains life
to people. It produces a changed lifestyle. Life-related preaching doesnt just
inform, it transforms. It changes people because the Word is applied to where
people actually live. Sermons that teach people how to live will never lack an
Please understand this: The unchurched are not asking that we
change the message or even dilute it, only that we show its relevance. Their big
question is So what? They want to know What difference does it make? Ive
found that unchurched Americans are intensely interested in Bible doctrine when
it is applied in practical and relevant ways to their lives.
I love to
teach theology to the unchurched without telling them its theology and without
using theological terms. I find it challenging and enjoyable. Ive preached sermon
series to the unchurched on the incarnation, justification, and sanctification
without ever using the terms! I did a series on the moral attributes of God and
simply called it Getting to Know God. Ive preached sermons to seekers on stewardship,
the work of the Holy Spirit, and even the Seven Deadly Sins.
myth that you must compromise the message to draw a crowd. Jesus certainly
didnt. You dont have to transform the message, but you do have to translate
3. Jesus Spoke to the Crowd with an Interesting Style
loved to listen to Jesus. Mark 12:37 (NCV) says, The large crowd listened to
Jesus with pleasure. The New International Version says they listened with delight.
Do people delight in your messages? Jesus never tried to convert anyone
Some pastors actually think they have failed in their preaching
if people enjoy a message. Ive heard pastors say proudly, Were not here to
entertain. In a Gallup poll a few years ago, the unchurched listed the church
as the most boring place to be.
If you look up the word entertain in
a dictionary, youll find this definition: capturing and holding the attention
for an extended period of time. I dont know any preacher who doesnt want to
do that! We shouldnt be afraid of being interesting. A sermon doesnt have to
be dry to be spiritual.
To the unchurched, dull preaching is unforgivable.
Truth poorly delivered is ignored. On the other hand, the unchurched will listen
to absolute foolishness if it is interesting. To prove this just turn on your
television late at night and see the assortment of psychics, wackos, and weirdoes
that dominate the airwaves.
It never ceases to amaze to me how some
Bible teachers are able to take the most exciting book in the world and bore people
to tears with it. I believe it is a sin to bore people with the Bible.
problem is this: When I teach Gods Word in an uninteresting way, people dont
just think Im boring, they think God is boring! We slander Gods character
if we preach with an uninspiring style or tone. The message is too important to
share it with a take-it-or-leave it attitude.
Jesus captured the interest
of large crowds with techniques that you and I can use:
He told stories
to make a point. Jesus was the master storyteller. He'd say, "Hey, did you
hear the one about..." and then tell a parable to teach a truth. In fact, the
Bible shows that storytelling was Jesus favorite technique when speaking to the
crowd. Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say
anything to them without using a parable." (Matt. 13:34) Somehow preachers forget
that the Bible is essentially a book of stories! Thats how God has chosen to
communicate his Word to human beings.
There are many benefits to using
stories to communicate spiritual truth: Stories hold our attention. The reason
television is so popular is because its essentially a story-telling device, whether
youre watching comedy, drama, the news, or a talk show. Even the commercials
are stories. Stories stir our emotions. They impact us in ways that precepts and
propositions never do.If you want to change lives, you must craft the message
for impact, not for information. Stories help us remember. Long after a pastors
cute outline is forgotten, people will remember the stories of the sermon.
fascinating, and sometimes comical; to watch how quickly a crowd tunes in whenever
a speaker begins telling a story and how quickly that attention vanishes as soon
as the story is finished!
Jesus used simple language. He didnt
use technical or theological jargon. He spoke in simple terms that normal people
could understand. We need to remember that Jesus did not use the classical Greek
language of the scholar. He spoke in Aramaic. He used the street language of that
day and talked of birds, flowers, lost coins, and other everyday objects that
anyone could relate to.
Jesus taught profound truths in simple ways. Today,
we do the opposite. We teach simple truths in profound ways. Sometimes when pastors
think they are being deep they are really just being muddy.
pastors like to show-off their knowledge by using Greek words and academic terms
in their preaching. They speak in an unknown tongue without being charismatic!
Pastors need to realize that no one cares as much about the Greek as they do.
Chuck Swindoll once told me that he believes an overuse of word studies in preaching
discourages confidence in the English text. I agree.
In fact, Chuck and
I - along with Jack Hayford and Chuck Smith - once taught a seminary course on
preaching. We each taught how we prepare and deliver sermons. At the end of the
course, the students mentioned that all four of us had, without collaboration,
emphasized the same thing: keep it simple!
Its easy to complicate the
gospel, and of course, Satan would love for us to do just that. The apostle Paul
worried that your minds would be led astray from the simplicity and purity of
devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3 NASB).
It takes a lot of thought and preparation
to communicate profound truths in simple ways. Einstein once said, You dont
really understand something unless you can communicate it in a simple way. You
can be brilliant, but if you can share it in a simple way, your insights arent
The Saddleback Valley is one of the most highly educated communities
in America, yet I find that the simpler I make the message, the more God blesses
Simple does not mean shallow. Simple does not mean simplistic. Simple
means being clear and understandable. For instance, This is the day the Lord
has made is simple while, Have a nice day! is simplistic.
today communicate with a vocabulary of less than 2,000 words and rely on only
about 900 words in daily use. If you want to communicate with most people, you
need to keep it simple. Never allow yourself to be intimidated by people who think
they are intellectuals. Its been my observation that people who have to use big
words are sometimes hiding bigger insecurities.
I believe simple sermon
outlines are always the strongest outlines. I consider being called a simple preacher
a compliment. Im interested in seeing lives changed, not in impressing people
with my erudition.
Id rather be clear than complex.
Jesus - not
anyone else - must be our model. When we preach like he did, well see the results
A Primer on Preaching Like Jesus, Part One
If youd like to know more
about this, please read my book, The
Purpose Driven Church (order your copy at Shop CBN).
This article originally
appeared in Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free, email newsletter available
from pastors.com. Used by permission.
The Ministry ToolBox is for
ANYONE serving Jesus Christ. For a free subscription, you can sign up at www.pastors.com.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback
Church in Lake Forest, CA., a congregation that now averages 16,000 in attendance
each weekend. Rick is also author of "The
Purpose Driven Church," and founder of
Pastors.com, a global Internet community for those in ministry. You may reprint
this article in your publication with the following attribution: From Rick Warren's
Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry, www.pastors.com.
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