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 How to make your preaching relevant to the people listening

Julian Spriggs M.A.

One of the most common criticisms of preaching is that it not relevant to the lives of the people listening. One rather sarcastic comment says that, “Theologians spend their time trying to answer questions that no one is asking.” To be relevant, our preaching must address the needs and concerns of the people listening.

The basic needs of people are very similar, wherever we are ministering. Of course, there are many important cultural differences, but these are often secondary to the fundamental needs and concerns of each individual, which are shared by people from every culture.

I have listed below a variety of the most common concerns people have. This is certainly not designed to be an exhaustive list, but merely some ideas to set you thinking.

If you preach on one of these concerns, and give helpful answers based on the Word of God, you will find that many of your congregation will benefit and be grateful for your message. Most of these concerns are particularly relevant to Christians, helping and encouraging them in their walk with God, as they aim to live all their lives before him. However, many of these needs can also be addressed in an evangelistic message, to give answers to non-believers who are seeking answers to their questions.

For each issue in people’s lives, the aim of preaching is to show them that the ultimate answers are to be found through faith in God, true wisdom is to be found in the Bible, and healing and restoration is available through the work of Jesus on the cross.

I have divided the concerns into four major groups, with several categories within each, although many topics can fit in more than one group.

Internal or personal concerns

These are some issues and concerns that people have in their private inner life of thoughts and feelings.

1. Self-esteem

Having a negative self-image
Feeling that you have no value or purpose
Feeling unloved
Loneliness

2. Damaged emotions

Broken relationships
Unforgiveness
Bitterness and resentment
Condemnation
Anger
Depression

3. Temptation

Sexual
Financial

4. Insecurity

Worry
Fear
Self-doubt

5. Decision making

Finding our destiny in Christ
How to find God’s plan for your life
Finding the right person to marry
Finding the right job

6. Intimacy with God

Practical teaching on Christian devotions, showing the benefits to a person’s spiritual life, bringing exhortation without condemnation. This needs to be very practical, including a step-by-step “how to”.

How to read the bible
How to pray
How to have an effective quiet time
How to share your faith through personal evangelism

External Concerns

These are everyday pressures on people from their external world, including family, work, church and friends.

1. Money

Debt
Increasing cost of living
Budgeting

2. Family relationships

Husband / wives
Children / parents
In-laws
Broken family

3. Other relationships

Church relationships
Workplace colleagues
Friends

. Expectations

From other people
From yourself
Imaginary - what you think other people are thinking (but are probably not!)

5. Busy-ness

Finding enough time to do everything

6. Work

Being a witness in the work-place
Working by godly standards in the work-place

Global trends and concerns

These are the issues we read about in the news. People want to find Christian answers to the pressing issues of the day.

1. Environment

Global warming and climate change
Pollution
Shortages of natural resources

2. Injustice

Third world poverty
Rich and poor
People trafficking, modern day slavery

3. War and global conflict

Wherever the latest conflict is taking place
Terrorism

4. Natural disasters

How can an all-powerful loving God allow these things to happen?

5. Current moral issues in society

Abortion
Euthanasia
Embyro and stem cell research
Genetically modified crops

Questions about our faith

Addressing the big questions about the Christian faith, both to strengthen the believers, and to give them answers for unbelievers.

1. General

Does the Christian faith make intellectual sense?
How do we relate to other religions and belief systems?
How can we be sure that the Bible is true?
Why do have these sixty-six books, and not others?
Be prepared to give an answer to the latest book or film which challenges the truth of Christianity or the character of God.

2. Science and the Bible

Creation and evolution
Can we believe the first eleven chapters of Genesis?

3. Understanding other religions and belief systems

Islam
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons
New Age
Post-modernism

4. Difficult questions

Is Jesus the only way to God?
What about those who have never heard the Gospel?
What about all the suffering in the world?


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