In the article I wrote for SermonCentral on technology and preaching, I ended by making the point that we must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking the preacher’s task is over when we have unpacked a Bible verse to our congregation. Rick Warren agrees, and I thought I would share his thoughts here, even though I know I risking getting into all kinds of hot water for quoting him approvingly:
“Many preachers believe the purpose of preaching is to explain the Bible, or to interpret the text, or to help people understand God’s Word. But these all fall short of what it really is.”
Warren then states what he believes is the purpose of preaching:
“To help people become like Jesus. How does this happen? Through application! The only way lives are changed is through the application of God’s Word. The lack of application in preaching and teaching is, I believe, the number one problem with preaching in the United States. Too many sermons are nothing more than lectures on biblical backgrounds or obscure Greek and Hebrew words. As a result, people walk into a church and walk out, but their lives remain unchanged.”Warren goes on to explain why he believes we fail to apply our sermons:
- We assume that people will make the necessary connection.
- We leave it to the Holy Spirit.
- Personal application is convicting and it makes people feel uncomfortable.
- We haven’t applied it in our own lives.
- It takes more time and effort and preparation.
- We’re afraid of being simplistic.
- We don’t apply the Scripture because we’ve never been taught how to do it.
- We haven’t realized the importance of application.
Warren believes that:
“Application is not something that you tack on to the end of the message. It is the message if you’re preaching to change lives and to make people like Christ.”
Warren ends by explaining that, in his view, the application of a sermon should aim to answer two questions:
- So what?
- What now?
He provocatively ends the article by saying, “If your preaching doesn’t ever answer these two questions, you haven’t applied the Bible to the lives of your listeners.”