Every time we preach, an invisible conversation is going on in the minds of our listeners. We could walk away feeling like we knocked the sermon out of the park and someone else, at the same time, could walk away feeling more confused and discouraged than ever. Why? Because when preaching to the unchurched (0r anyone for that matter), it’s easy to ignore the information gap.
My daughter recently started in dance class. She’s 3 years old and is in a pre-dance class where she’ll be learning ballet, tap, and tumbling. She doesn’t know ballet (other than watching her ballerina shows), she doesn’t know tap (at all), and she doesn’t know tumbling (at all). Her teacher knows this – her class is designed for her to learn from scratch. As I was watching my little girl in her first dance class, a connection occurred and I believe it can make a huge difference in how we approach preaching to the unchurched.
Preaching to the Unchurched: Lessons From From My Daughter’s First Dance Class
From the looks of her first class, not much dancing occurred. No routines were drawn up and executed. By all observations, it would be easy to think, what was the purpose of all that?! But something was happening. Something foundational was happening.
My daughter’s dance teacher understood something that too many of us preachers forget – beginners need to be taught with the assumption that they know nothing.
Picture this: my little 3-year-old goes to her dance class and the teacher is so excited to share with her what she knows that she begins with her best moves. She does her best routine, pumped that she did every twirl, every jump, and every other thing ballerinas do (no idea what these are really called) and then she spends the rest of the time trying to teach my daughter how to do exactly what she did.
Newsflash. It wouldn’t work.
The Challenge for Pastors
Now, we all know that the comparison doesn’t work completely because, in the same room, we have people who were born in the church and people who just stepped foot in the church for the first time. And then there are people everywhere imaginable in between those two spectrums. So the challenge for pastors is figuring out a way to be intentional in speaking to everyone in the room – unchurched and overchurched alike.
For most, it’s easier to preach to the people who are where you are spiritually. If you’re a seasoned Christian, walking with God for decades, then it’s going to probably be easiest for you to preach to people who have been walking with God for awhile. If you’re a new follower of Christ, it’s going to probably be easiest for you to preach to people who are new to the faith or just checking things out.
Knowing this is only half the battle.
7 Keys to Preaching to the Unchurched
- Don’t assume your listeners know that Bible story.
- Don’t assume your listeners know churchy phrases.
- Always explain more than you think you need to.
- Always give context to the biblical passage you are preaching from.
- Ask yourself what questions would come to mind if you weren’t sure if you believed what you were preaching and then address those questions.
- Always illustrate the biblical text with something common to your audience.
- Always preach the gospel – every single sermon.
Have Anything to Add?
If this article was helpful to you, subscribe to the blog. As a way of saying thank you, we’ll include 4 free resources: Sermon Evaluation Worksheet, 56 Weeks of Preaching Topics, Sermon Series Planning Evernote Template, and the Weekly Productivity Evernote Template. All this for free when you subscribe.