All preachers should know WHY they preach. It’s the Gospel. It’s Jesus taking the punishment we deserved for our sins so that we can be made pure before God. I’m assuming we all get this.
However, what I think we can easily neglect when preaching is WHO is our motivation? (Obviously we could say Jesus here too, but I want to take this in a slightly different direction.)
The Bible tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were helpless like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
Jesus’ teachings were motivated by his compassion for the people in the crowds. And I would think that Jesus, being God in flesh, didn’t just see a faceless crowd before him. He saw each individual. He knew everything about every single person in the crowd. He knew each of their deepest, darkest desires, struggles, and fears.
So when Jesus preached about things like loving your neighbor, not committing adultery in your heart, and not worrying about tomorrow, I would argue that he looked directly into the hearts and mind of each individual in the crowd and knew that these were messages they needed to hear.
Jesus knew exactly WHO he was speaking to. Do you?
WHO is the motivation for your message?
If you are preaching this week on marriage, WHO is motivating you? Is it Jeff who just had a messy divorce? Is it the clueless newlywed couple that you did premarital counseling for who thinks marriage will solve all their problems? Is it Tanya, the single woman who is wondering if she will be single forever or if the next man who comes into her life will finally be the right one?
If you are preaching on faith in suffering, WHO is motivating you? Is it the Edwards family who just lost a child? Is it Esther, the elderly woman who lost her husband? Is it John, the out of work dad who cannot find a job and is feeling hopeless?
Youth pastors, WHO is motivating you? Is it Austin, the middle school boy struggling with suicidal thoughts? Is it Jessica, the high school girl who is dealing with shame and grief after going too far with her boyfriend who recently dumped her? Is it Drew, the guy who pretends he is a sold out Christian on Sunday, but parties hard Friday and Saturday?
Like Jesus, you have to know your audience. It is not enough to just know generalities and statistics. WHO are you speaking to?
Try putting a face to your next message. Pick a person. Write down their name. Imagine this person while you write your sermon. Imagine their situation while you apply the message. Imagine their face while you preach.
When you do this people will say, “Wow, I felt like you were speaking right to me!” And in your head you will think, “That is because I was!”
If you know that one person in your audience is dealing with something, chances are they are not the only ones.
You cannot do this, however, if you don’t take the time to listen.
WHO are you preaching to?