The thrust that today’s church needs more than anything else is preaching that will keep people awake!
More laymen are crying out that they are bored stiff. They can hardly stand those services, yet they feel obligated to show, and so they do; some even put their money in the plate. However, most congregations are ready to go to sleep when it comes to the Sunday morning sermon.
We have our church growth seminars and our lovely church plants and our trained personnel. We have our up-to-date equipment–intercoms, public address systems, movie projectors, slide shows–you name it. We have our fancy clothes and badges and colorful brochures. But what we lack is the most important ingredient of all: that gripping message that truly gets hold of the heart every Sunday.
What are the dimensions of preaching that come from strong conviction?
First, it is preaching which is penetrating. Today’s congregations will not tolerate phoniness in sermon content and delivery. They want the stark, honest stuff. Therefore, preach it.
Penetrating preaching is uncovering preaching. It is targeting in on an area and exposing its hypocrisy. It is a laying bare, a peeling away, layer by layer, thinking through with the hearers the truthfulness about the matter, shedding light in dark corners.
Penetrating preaching is also unnerving in that it will not tolerate complacency. It seeks out the genuine, prods for action, challenges for commitment. It refuses to coddle and excuse the inexcusable; instead, it dares to call the forces to battle.
Second, preaching with conviction is personal. The hearers have not shown up for a lecture. They want to hear from the Lord. And they expect the person behind the pulpit to come through. Further, they expect the message to apply to them in their everyday living.
Personal preaching is that which relates. Clergy have been accused of being in their ivory towers. Those who do not like that profile must convince their people they do know what life is about, and they know what God’s Word has to say to that life.
Also, personal preaching is that which reverberates throughout the soul. The message echoes throughout the spirit convincing those in the pew that they are attending more than a Kiwanis luncheon address.
The heavens are to open. Truth is to descend. Hearts are to be stirred. Lives are to be changed–all through the foolishness of preaching under the inspiration of the Spirit of the living God.
Third, preaching with authority is persuasive. The one delivering the message has lived through the sermon and comes out on the other side convinced of his own experience. Therefore, he can hardly wait to share what he has discovered, pointing his church family to a higher, holier ground. He does not fumble with his notes; his notes are written on his soul. He does not grasp for illustrations; they are dashing through his own blood-stream.
Persuasive preaching looses the dead foundations, and how quickly can the life die. Therefore, it is imperative that every preaching opportunity be that divine chance to dig up the wasteland, plant those seeds, believe earnestly for growth, and expect the harvest.
One sanctuary after another is filled with the proper people, dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ fancies, smiles pasted in place, Bibles in hand, prayer books in place–but beneath it all is the crusty earth. The hurts, the doubts, the weepings, the private fears–all covered over with that daily sophistication which can suffocate. In the power of the Spirit, pour out the water of life on that parched land!
In addition, persuasive preaching lifts. It lifts from sin into holiness, from depression into faith, from death into life, from confusion into certainty, from loneliness into fellowship, from despair into hope. When the people are hearing the conclusion of that sermon, they are ready to believe again–with gusto. They truly have–at least for thirty minutes–been taken away from the panic-stricken world long enough to get their balance.
On a recent Sunday morning a young couple visited our sanctuary for the first time. They were in the habit of going to church in the midwest, but I noticed immediately they were in the wrong habit when it was time for the sermon. When I started to speak, they started to fidget and to make over the baby on their lap and to giggle softly between themselves.
Right away I knew they had concluded, a long time ago, that sermon time was check-out time. I felt sorry for them. They were telling me that when at home they tolerated the boring sermon, but in tolerating they had figured out their own “putting in time” games.
I thought afterward of how many other believers simply go through the motions of worship each Sunday, and primarily because that which is to be their challenging climax of the hour–the sermon–ends up to be the most monotonous half hour in the week. It is a disgrace.
There needs to be a conscious return to preaching that has backbone to it, that is convincing, that opens eyelids. No wonder they said of Jesus that he was one who spoke with authority. May the men and women under his call go forth to do likewise.
Previously published in Your Church. Used by permission.

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