Determining HOW to Preach the Text: 4 Ways to “Go With It”
I do my best to start the sermon off with something that will help me gauge the temperature of the audience. I like to get a feel early on whether or not I am dealing with a rowdy bunch or a sleepy bunch; a hungry crowd or a “have to be there” crowd; a happy people or a grumpy people. Though I have my preferences as to which kind of crowd they are, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. When preaching a text of Scripture, I have to go with it. And to preach it most effectively, I have to go with the mood of the congregation. What do I mean? Well, if I want the sermon I have prepared to make an impact, I need to tailor my approach, depending on the tone in the room. I’m not saying the preacher needs to change his sermon. Super rare is the occasion when the preacher needs to preach something different than he has prepared. But it is incredibly common to adjust the way he expected to preach it. Of course, this is really easy when the congregation is eager, hungry, happy, and engaging. That is a preacher’s dream. But what about when the congregation is quiet, tired, grumpy, and ready to go to lunch?
Let me suggest a couple of ways to help you “go with it.”
1. Don’t force it.
If they ain’t with you, a couple of extra jokes or corny quotes won’t help it. Instead, they will see you trying too hard and tune you out more. Don’t try to force something that just isn’t there. Go with it, don’t force it.
2. Encourage alertness.
When you can tell it might be a long sermon, say things like, “This will go by a lot faster if you’re with me;” or, “Come on, now. THAT deserves an ‘Amen’ from somebody;” or think of a phrase that will encourage attention to an important truth you are sharing. Something like, “Now I know that I’ve been using some words that might be confusing, but let me help you understand the critical nature of this truth.” Be careful here (don’t forget #1!!!). But with a little discernment and gentleness, you can encourage the congregation to heed truths being presented.
3. Fixate on the handful who are with you.
Another way to go with the flow during a sermon that seems to be landing on deaf ears is to find the few people who are with you (or, so it seems) and preach to them. God’s Word NEVER returns void. We have no idea what is going on in the hearts and lives of people sitting in the pews. For all we know, the sermon you feel like is being ignored is the message needed that will save a marriage, a soul, a family, a wrong decision, etc.
4. Pray the week before, the day before, the morning of, and during the sermon.
Spiritual influence and fruit is something only the Father can produce. The horse is made ready for the day of battle. . . but victory rests with the Lord (Proverbs 21:31). The sermon should be prepared for the day of delivery, but how it lands on hearts and minds rests with the Lord. Pray. Pray the week of. Pray the day before. Pray the morning of. Pray during the sermon itself.
When all is said and done, preacher, go with it.