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.
Having a negative self-image
Feeling that you have no value or purpose
2. Damaged emotions
Bitterness and resentment
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
These are everyday pressures on people from their external world, including family, work, church and friends.
Increasing cost of living
2. Family relationships
Husband / wives
Children / parents
3. Other relationships
From other people
Imaginary - what you think other people are thinking (but are probably not!)
Finding enough time to do everything
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.
Global warming and climate change
Shortages of natural resources
Third world poverty
Rich and poor
People trafficking, modern day slavery
3. War and global conflict
Wherever the latest conflict is taking place
4. Natural disasters
How can an all-powerful loving God allow these things to happen?
5. Current moral issues in society
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.
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
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons
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?