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.