Do you want to see more people saved when you preach? Do you sometimes feel as if your preaching lacks the teeth to see genuine life change? Do you sometimes feel like no matter how long you work on your message, it still lacks the saving power you and God both desire?
Obviously God is sovereign and He grants salvation to whomever He wills, but we should do everything in our power to preach in the most effective way possible. We know that God gives the crop, but we want to be diligent farmers who cultivate, sow, fertilize, and pray for harvest with increasing effectiveness. Here are some things He’s shown me to increase my effectiveness over the past 18 months since I’ve started preaching on a consistent basis.
1- Preach the GOSPEL Clearly and Biblically.
Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…"
If we want to see more people saved through our preaching, we must make sure that every sermon we preach is gospel centered. If it’s a sermon about marriage, it must lead to the gospel. If it’s a sermon about evangelism, it must lead to the gospel. If it’s a sermon about serving, it must lead to the gospel. We must be intentional to preach the gospel every single message. Whatever methods and means we use to get people to our services and to engage them while they’re there (lights, music style, sermon series, games, mailers, jokes, social media, giveaways, speaking techniques, etc.), should all culminate to a presentation of the gospel, or they are in vain. If we’re not preaching the gospel- what are we doing?
We must also make sure that the gospel is clear and biblical. In modern Christianity, we often try to clean up the gospel, giving them only the glamorous parts, so it’s not as offensive. Preaching a “cleaned up” gospel takes away from its saving power; it does not add to it. Romans 1:16 says, that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, not our eloquence or our cleaned up explanation (Paul gives us a great explanation of how the gospel works in 1 Corinthians 1-2). Let’s preach the full gospel- Holy God. Sinful man. Man’s inability to save himself. God’s wrath on sin. Jesus’ life, atoning death, burial, resurrection, etc. Let’s also give a clear biblical call to respond to that gospel- repent and believe (a great study to do is how the preachers in Acts called people to respond; a great book on this is Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear)
If you want to do everything you can to see more people saved through your preaching, preach the gospel biblically, clearly, and consistently, and give a bold invitation trusting in the gospel’s saving power.
2- Preach the PLEASURES of Knowing Jesus.
Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Every human being in the entire world is longing for the eternal satisfaction that can only be found in a relationship with God. We were made for this. But, because of sin we are separated from God and are left empty, seeking satisfaction in drugs, money, joyless religion, relationships, sex, ego, etc. None of these things fill the void that only God can fill; people know that they’re not satisfied. They are dying of thirst for the Living Water that we can offer them.
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I give him will never be thirsty again.” John 4:13 (Also see Jeremiah 2:12-13, Isaiah 55:1-2, John 7:37, and many more)
When we preach, we must preach the pleasures of knowing Jesus. Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Peter uses this verse as one of his key points in the sermon he preached at Pentecost where 3,000 people were saved. We must tell the people that Jesus is the pleasure they're looking for and exult in who He is (a great resource to study more about this is Desiring God by John Piper).
By this I don’t mean a presentation of the gospel where we dwell mainly on the blessings of God; I mean a presentation of the gospel where we dwell on the infinite value of knowing Christ Himself (Philippians 3:7-8). We must be careful not to be like a prospering restaurant owner that coerces homeless men dying of hunger to come in our restaurant by our eloquent explanation of the brightness of the lights, the melody of the music, the color and quality of the drapes, and the great art work on the wall, with no mention of the filet mignon. The hungry man may also enjoy the extra benefits, but he is dying for the one thing that will save his life if we gets it- the filet mignon. Let's give him the steak! We tend to emphasize God’s blessings in our attempts to evangelize, when people are longing not for God’s blessings, but for God Himself. Yes, talk about the other benefits of following Jesus, but make it your main focus to preach Jesus Christ, and the pleasures of knowing Him.
3- Preach From the Soul.
In John 7:38, Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’"
To be effective in preaching for salvation, we must preach to the soul, not just merely to the intellect. To do this effectively, we must preach from a soul that is moved by the gospel and has been gulping deeply of Jesus. Ineffective, sterile preaching may stem from weak preparation (I’m a big believer in the separation is in the preparation- Proverbs is full with this), but ineffective, sterile preaching more often comes from a lukewarm soul.
The best thing we can do to improve our effectiveness in preaching is to “delight ourselves in God.” Soul reaching preaching flows from a soul that is drunk in love with Jesus. Jesus says in John 15:5 that the way to bear much fruit (one aspect of this is to see more salvations) is to abide in Him (stay connected to Jesus). We must fight to stay connected with Jesus, delight ourselves in Him, and remain increasingly more in love with Him.
As Jesus was confronting the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, he commends them for most of their works, but says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first…” (Revelation 2:4-5a). Pastor- how’s your love for Jesus right now? What do you need to do to fall more in love with Jesus (not just ministry) again?
As a preacher, Jesus has given us an incredible and weighty calling to steward. Hell and Heaven are real, and salvation through Jesus Christ is the only thing that can save a person. Obviously there is no formula to seeing Jesus save hopeless sinners, but we need to do everything humanly possible to this end: we must preach the gospel clearly and biblically, preach the pleasures of knowing Jesus, and preach from a soul that is drunk in love with Jesus.
Here’s some practical questions to help you apply this:
- How can I incorporate the gospel in my sermon this week?
- How can I make my presentation of the gospel more clear?
- How can I more effectively preach the pleasures of knowing Jesus?
- What is 1 thing I can do to fall more in love with Jesus today?