In his new book Saying It Well: Touching Others with Your Words (Faith Words), Chuck Swindoll writes: “A sermon targets the heart of the listener to create a crisis of the will and then presses the individual for a decision, whether to place one’s trust in Christ for salvation or to make a specific, substantive change to live out that earlier decision. A sermon that doesn’t do that falls short of the mark.

“Preachers, therefore, must have specific application as their goal throughout every stage of preparation and delivery…Naturally, to impact an audience, you have to know something about them. You stand the best chance of presenting something meaningful when you know who has come to hear you and you let their needs guide your preparation. What information do they lack? What attitudes do they hold? Should you affirm and encourage their present behavior, or should you persuade them differently and then press for change?

“Preachers become more effective as they grow more intimately involved with individuals in their congregations. Learn from their experience. Try to discover as much as you can about the people gathered to hear you. As you begin your research, consider these two questions: What information or insights can I share that the majority of my audience doesn’t already have? [and] How do I want my audience to think differently and then respond after my sermon? The answer is your objective.” 

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