[This post is a part of the Creating a Sermon Series series]
How do you decide what to preach? Is it based on a moment of creative inspiration or is there a more methodological way of going about preaching calendar? Whatever way you come up with ideas for what to preach, it is critical that are being intentional with what we are going to say over the next several weeks or months. I believe there are two main categories that our preaching falls into: sermons that people want to hear and sermons that people need to hear. The “want to hear” sermons are the ones that speak to felt needs, topics like friendships, families, stage of life issues. The “need to hear” sermons are the ones that speak to the docrine of a specific belief or even teaching through an entire book of the Bible.
What People Want to Hear
What are the felt needs of the people you are preaching to? Are there things going on in their world that need to be addressed? Are there issues being raised by the culture around them that need to be talked about? It’s not likely that people are bringing these ideas to you and asking you to preach on them, but there would be little difficulty in seeing how these topics speak to a practical need in their life. We need to find ways to help people navigate through their immediate felt needs. For example, a common felt need among church-goers might be family relationships. How could we in the midst of a sermon series help people understand the importance of family and how to deal with family relationships bibilically?
What People Need To Hear
We cannot only give people what they want to hear; that can be a very dangerous slope. It may not even be best for the “want to hear” sermons to be a majority, but it should certainly have a presence as you plan. What are the things that are not on the front of a person’s mind that they need to hear? What doctrine do they need to be reminded of? As you read through the scriptures, sometimes the Bible speaks to felt needs of the people and other times it takes some education to realize how important something is. When I think about what people need to hear, I tend to try to ask, what doctrines that my students need to be reminded of? What books of the Bible would it be helpful for me to teach through? What might a middle school student need to hear, but not want to hear?
If you only give people what they want to hear, you are in danger on being nothing more than another self-help guru. And if you only give people what they want to hear, what do you do when you get to issues like sin? Most people don’t want to hear they are depraved, sinful beings that deserve the wrath of God. But they need to hear that. So the tension becomes balancing what people need to hear and what people want to hear and finding the right way to speak to the totality of what the scriptures speak of.
What are some things people want to hear? What are some things people need to hear?
Photo Credit: Zanthia