Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On
Every Sunday—after the songs have been sung, the offering plates passed, and the sermon preached—most churches engage in a similar ritual. The pastor stands near the exit as members file past with handshakes and comments like, “Nice talk, pastor.” or “Fine speech, preacher.” In the aftermath, many of us ministers climb into our cars and drive away wondering if those parting words represent the extent of the impact of our message. Did anything get through that will be remembered past their Nazarene naps?
Much of modern preaching has been geared toward seeking a response in the moment—the desired outcome being to elicit a particular emotional reaction or cognitive understanding. The invitation becomes a coming forward to make a decision in the moment. Our history, our theology, even our furniture have driven many of us to preach toward a crisis moment.
Certainly, we want people to be saved and sanctified. We want them to achieve spiritual benchmarks of growth and surrender. But if preaching is geared for the moment only, what happens to our parishioners after they walk out the doors of the church. Does the message of Sunday have any impact on their lives on Monday?
I fear there is an ever-widening disconnect between Sunday worship and Monday living, and maybe the blame for this falls on us as pastors. Instead of seeking a response in the moment, faithful preaching should seek to transcend the moment—to make the leap into the day-to-day world in which our people live.
An important part of preaching involves helping our listeners to embrace a faith that works in the context of daily life. Every week, praying through sermon preparation, I ask questions like: “What will this message mean for Charlie at the plant, for Betty at the restaurant, for Brandon in the classroom, and for Brooke in her office?” Such thinking helps to shape the message so that when I stand before them to preach, I am more likely to speak words that are robust, real, and relevant. I aim for preaching that is substantial; something that sticks to their spiritual ribs. When they leave the service, my desire is that they will be emboldened by the internalized Word to live lives as servants of Christ through their experiences—good or bad—in the week ahead.
John 1:14 declares the miracle of the incarnation: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (NIV). The Word becoming flesh is not just something that happened two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. The same hovering Spirit who brought life then does the same with the church today. Every Sunday the Word becomes flesh once again. The preacher’s words proclaim the One who is the Word. Through faithful, prayerful preaching, the Word grabs hold of people, changes their lives, and encourages them to go forth into their world empowered by the very Spirit of life.
When I preach for Monday, I envision the Word enfleshed in office cubicles, chemistry classrooms, cattle barns, and at kitchen tables. This means more than just coming up with a message and pushing toward application. It means constantly discerning how the Word needs to live in the flesh of the church beyond Sunday morning. It means knowing the business of heaven, knowing the people of earth, and seeking to bring this knowledge together to equip my people to live out the business of heaven on earth.
Certainly, we should continue to preach for the moment—to see people saved and sanctified—but we must also preach for Mondays. The life of heart holiness is not lived apart from the world. Preaching for Monday prepares people to be Christlike disciples in office breakrooms and basketball bleachers, on barn floors and back porches.
I don’t mind hearing “I appreciated that message” on Sunday. But I long to receive an email on Monday that says, “That sermon made a difference in my life today.”
Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.