“My pastor is so good he can talk on any subject for an hour.”“That’s nothing! My pastor can talk for an hour without a subject!” The World’s Greatest Collection Of Clean Jokes, Bob Phillips, p. 52.
Do people in your congregation think that? You may be an excellent expositor of God’s Word, but what about applying the Scriptures to people’s everyday lives? Somebody once said, “Bible preaching without good applications to real life communicates to people that the Bible is irrelevant and that God is out of touch.” Sincere saints are asking of today’s preaching, “So what?” I have personally been challenged in this area of making a better connection to my listeners.
Allow me to share some misconceptions:
It’s the preacher’s job to preach the Word and the Holy Spirit’s job to apply the message. How true that preachers are not the Holy Spirit, yet God uses you as the mouthpiece to make life-changing decisions.
Applications should come at the end of your message. Wrong! They should be placed throughout your entire message.
People are good at figuring out what you are trying to communicate. No they are not! You have to be plain and clear.
Allow me to make some suggestions in making your Bible messages more practical to your listeners:
Allow your studied passage of Scripture to preach to you first before you attempt to preach it to others. Oh, I believe we can give homiletical masterpieces without God’s wisdom and power! I am slowly learning over time to allow a text to become a part of my devotional life. I will read it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on it because God has a message for me before it can be communicated to others.
With a pencil and paper, write down every thought of how your passage can apply to you. Ask yourself: “What does this passage require of me?” Not everything you write down will be used, but determine what is relevant to your listeners. Keep in mind that the application comes directly from the passage instead of trying to fit it in. E.g., In Luke 17:17, Christ asked a healed leper who came back to him, “Where are the nine?” The Lord Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one gave thanks. That’s only 10%. Many are unthankful, few are truly thankful. Which are you?
Using a Strong’s Concordance, look up the reference of a particular word. Seeing how a word is used in other portions of Scripture can provide great application to your message.
Ask your wife how the passage of Scripture applies to her. I am tremendously blessed with a wife who grew up in the ministry. Sometimes I think she could write a better sermon than I could. Her thoughts on Eph. 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands” and many other Bible passages will give a fresh, new perspective from a woman’s point of view.
When you make an application, explain what it means and how your listeners can apply it to their life. What good is it to preach “repentance” if someone in the audience does not know what repentance is and how to repent.
Applications must be personal. Evangelist Tom Farrell, in his book Preaching That Pleases God writes, “The use of the personal pronoun you needs to be part of the preacher’s vocabulary. Certainly we and our have their place in preaching, but you brings the message directly home to the individuals and the audience!”
Start a sermon illustration index. For five years now, I have collected hundreds of illustrations arranged by their subject and source. They are a wonderful resource in aiding the preacher with his message. Illustrations can be found in the Bible, news articles, books, real-life events, stories and other places.
Research for applications on the Internet. Put your topic in the search bar and next to it, type in words such as: example, sermon illustrations, studies, quote.
Place yourself in the audience. My life as a preacher is far different from a guy who works night shift, a single mother of three children, a faithful elderly couple and your new guest who knows nothing about a Baptist church. Tailor your messages to their needs. If you had to listen to your own sermon, what would you get out of the message?
Listen to audio sermons of your favorite preachers to find applications. I personally like to browse through sermonaudio.com.
Make the Bible come alive by acting out the narrative story.
Use an object lesson.