by John Meador
Editor's Note: Pulpit Helps welcomes John Meador to our family of columnists this month. "Transformational Preaching" will continue to focus on expositional preaching-allowing God to transform lives by letting Him inform our preaching through His word rather than simply speaking topically.
We're thrilled to have him share his experience and wisdom with you!
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The desire of most pastors I know is the same. They want to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ and they want to see consistent "transformation" take place in those lives. The big question for us all, then, is this: "What, exactly, can we do from the pulpit to see transformed lives?" How we answer this question will determine where we spend our preparation time each week; it will determine what our sources are for the message we preach; and it will determine our entire approach to the weekend messages we preach. So how do we answer the question? After more than 20 years of pastoring and preaching, I've come to several conclusions concerning the subject of preaching that transforms lives.
First, I've concluded that entertaining people does not transform lives. Since people are clearly focused on entertaining themselves today, it is a foregone conclusion for most preachers that we've got to do a little entertaining ourselves. If we can just grab their attention, if we can just keep them listening, then there comes a time when we will be able to slip the gem of truth into their hearts, and the light bulb of revelation may light up. After all, we are in competition with the various forms of entertainment today, whether we admit it or not, and people do have decreased attention spans.
While I'll be the first to say that I'm interested in getting people's attention, and I admire those that are so gifted in this area, I've noticed that people often talk about enjoying such preaching, but rarely have I heard that they've been changed by those messages. Believe me when I say, "I want people to enjoy my messages!" But more than that, I am called to be concerned about repentance, transformation, and renewing of minds.
Second, I've concluded that, over the long haul, preaching the hottest topic of the week cannot result in balanced, renewed living for our people. Because people are so selective in their listening habits, we know that the subject of the message is critical. Most of us think, "I've got to have the right topic, the right title, and the right approach-or I've lost them." By choosing a relevant issue to preach on and by making the Scripture speak to that issue, we put our time and energy into building the bridge between Scripture and people, trusting God to touch their lives. Generally, this is commendable!
After time, however, our people begin to need the steady diet of a more balanced approach to preaching. Life consists of far more than the latest marriage secret, getting our finances in order, and what signs are pointing to the end times. Again, I'm an advocate of preaching about all those issues, but life is more than these. It is hard for people to care much about the end times, when they are really not too sure about their relationship with Jesus Christ. It is next to impossible for a church member to apply a great principle on marriage when he/she is struggling with condemnation or guilt.
Third, I've concluded that while my presentation is extremely important, my content deserves far more time and attention. If I am not careful, how I present truth can take on more importance than the truth I present. While Jesus was a master of presentation, it was truth that came first. Clearly, there were times when He was simply blunt and direct! The Pharisees certainly didn't get many of the "light moments" we sometimes try to factor into our messages. Over the years, I've come to realize that my time in study and devotion to God's Word pays far richer dividends than the endless search for the best story, the catchiest video or the perfect drama. Do I use all those? Oh, yes, indeed! But those things serve a secondary purpose to what is absolutely primary: the sharing of the truth of God's Word.
Jesus said, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31b-32 NAS). The truth we share is actually the agent for transformation. If I can see God's Word as the seed that is planted, which will bring forth true spiritual fruit-then I can realize that the more seed I plant the greater the fruit.
How we do that from week to week is the quest, and will be the focus of next month's column.