Over the years it has been impressed on novice preachers to learn how to exegete scripture in order to preach it. Unfortunately, that is only one side of the preaching process. The other side, if you want your preaching to be practical and relevant, is to exegete the congregation. Elsewhere comment has been made about the importance of knowing your congregation. There are at least five areas which any preacher needs to give attention to:-
- Understand your culture
Culture refers to the lifestyle and mind-set of society. It has to do with what people are feeling, what interests them, what they value, what pains them, and what they fear. If you were sent to another country as a missionary, first you would seek to understand the culture of that country. In today’s secular environment, it is just as important for you to understand the culture from which your congregation gathers. Some of the ways to understand your culture is observe the world around you, talk to people from all walks of life, read the paper and news magazines. You don’t have to agree with the culture around you, but if you want your preaching to connect you had better understand it. Be informed about the real issues influencing people in the pews.
- Know your audience
This biblical principle is at the corner of all preaching. Each of the four gospels was written to a different audience. Jesus and Paul knew their audiences. You get to know your audience when they see you as being one with them… When your preaching is based on recent and accurate information about the hearers, the message will hit home.
- Capture a mind profile of the congregation
Reflect over information you have gathered about the culture and the community, then develop a profile of the typical Church attendee. Paint a picture of them in your mind. Identify their age, education, likes and dislikes, recreational preferences, money issues, expectations, salary and family status. In fact, try to know them better than they know themselves.
- Ask the right question
In preparation ask questions and reflect from different angles. The typical questions around any issue or circumstances all start with ‘Who’, ‘Why’, ‘Where’, ‘When’ and ‘How’. As answers come clarify note them and develop a message.
- Preach from the heart to the heart
The intent of preaching is not to fill an allotted time slot in the order of worship. You don’t approach the pulpit to hear yourself speak, but rather to deliver a message from the heart of God to the heart of the hearers.
When you see people before you who have hurts, problems, doubts, fears, and anxieties gnawing at their faith; when you see the knuckles of a clenched fist, a face fighting back tears, a heart which is suffering, and the spirit with no joy because it has no hope; when you see these things and preach to them and for them, your preaching will be relevant and practical.