Jay Kesler once observed that “preaching a sermon strong on information but weak on application is like shouting to a drowning person, ‘Swim! Swim!’ The message is true, but it’s not helpful.”

Idon’t know about you, but as I look back at approximately 40 years of preaching in many churches, I fear I have preached far too many “Swim! Swim!” sermons that provided plenty of solid biblical content but may have left the listeners scratching their heads as they walked out the door, wondering what they should be doing with all this—or worse yet—not thinking at all about what they should be doing with this biblical truth.

Do I dare make this personal? Think about the last sermon you preached. Now imagine there were surveyors—complete with clipboards!—standing in the foyer as your congregation stepped out of the worship service. Suppose they were taking a one-question survey: “Based on the message you just heard, what can you do to apply the message of the biblical text in your life this week?” What kind of answers would they get from your congregants? Would they exhibit a lot of puzzled expressions?

This week as you prepare to preach, make sure you have nailed down your purpose: What, specifically, do you want to happen as a result of preaching this message? Because until we know that, we’re not ready to preach.

Michael Duduit
@michaelduduit on Twitter

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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