Why Preaching Isn’t Enough

I believe God’s word does not come back void. I also, as a pastor, believe I have the spiritual gift of teaching/preaching. Through years of preaching I know I can hold an audience’s attention, and I trust God to change hearts. Before I became a lead pastor I thought, “If I’m faithful to preach the word and develop my gifts then people will come.” I was wrong.

Pastoring is a lot more than preaching. I believe most pastors feel this, and yet a lot of us bank reaching people on our ability to preach.

Pastoring is like trying to raise hundreds of toddlers at the exact same time. Someone is always sick, needy, having a meltdown, or being annoying. At the same time there are consistent lessons that we teach toddlers and at times it just feels like they don’t get it. Which makes a parent declare, “How many times do I have to tell you!” Preaching feels like that. Don’t get me wrong, toddlers can also be amazing! There are great joys in pastoring, but I wish it was a simple as preaching faithfully to the text and seeing lives changed. Sermons inspire but systems change behaviors. Without a system pastors are left declaring, “How many times do I have to tell you!”

Sermons inspire but systems change behaviors. Click To Tweet

Now, before you attack that last sentence and dismiss it as being unspiritual would you consider the following? Have you ever heard a sermon, nodded your head, and then walked away only to repeat the same bad behavior? I have. If a person doesn’t apply what they hear in the sermon life change won’t happen.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

I wish every time we preached people would instantly apply what they hear. Inspiration fades after time. Putting what you learn into practice is a system.

So what is a behavior you wish to see at your church? A sermon series is part of the answer, but what is the system to help people apply the sermon long after they have forgotten it?

What is your system for evangelism? What is your system for discipleship? What is your system for care?

Every church has some systems. When you combine the sermon with a system you help people apply the word instead of simply hearing it.

As you write your next sermon consider where the system is that you can point your people to. I hope your next sermon is full of inspiration. I also hope it points people to a next step.

Here is a simple exercise to try.

No matter how you sermon prep or what method you use, write system with a question mark at the bottom of the page. Before you finalize the sermon ask, “Is there a system I can point people to?”

If you teach on generosity is there a system to help your church members get out of debt? Encourage them to apply what they have learned by joining a Financial Peace group or another group that helps teach finances.

If you teach on forgiveness think about what system will help people practice forgiveness. Is it groups?

There may not be a system for everything that you teach. That shouldn’t stop us from thinking through how we can point people towards a system when it does apply.

One last thing. There are times when the church I pastor doesn’t have the system in place to support the sermon. This is when I highlight other systems that can help. I’ve recommended Christian counselors for those who need a little extra help applying the sermon, I’ve highlights Celebrate Recovery even though our church doesn’t host a CR group. There are a few groups in our area that I recommend. What I’ve found is when I help people experience life change they end up becoming more connected with Jesus and more passionate about the church.

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