I recently worked with a client who is transitioning from serving as the Lead Pastor of an established church to serving as a church planter. He noticed that his sermons, which were well-received in his old context, seemed to be missing the mark in his church plant. He wondered why, and it led to a fruitful discussion of some of the difference between preaching and teaching.
The terms are often used interchangeably, but in this context, let’s define preaching as challenging your listeners to respond to God by explaining the scriptures in context. And let’s define teaching as making sure your listeners understand the basics of the Christian faith.
Here are five things to keep in mind when preparing sermons for a church plant:
Know your congregation.
When planting a church, you should be experiencing an influx of people who are not familiar with the basics. This is exciting! It is the purpose of church planting. (Note: If this isn’t your experience, it’s time to evaluate what you’re doing and strategize changes to bring in more unchurched people.) One way to quickly lose new attenders who are unfamiliar with church is to assume they understand the basics. One way to help them is to take a moment to unpack any vernacular or terms that may be new to them. This will help them feel welcome and included, as opposed to sensing that they don’t fit in and this isn’t the place for them. Also consider key concepts people need to hear and understand about the gospel. How can you weave these truths into your sermons?
Model engagement with the scriptures.
Experience is the best teacher, but no one said that experience must always be your own. Sharing how you engage with scripture can be a powerful teaching tool. Walk your listeners through the mental conversation you had with the passage during your prep time. That can demystify the process and help them understand that the scriptures are accessible to anyone, including themselves.
Make the gospel accessible in all that you do.
The whole church service–from the opening song to dismissal of the congregation–is proclaiming the good news and allowing people to experience God. Consider how can you make each aspect of the service more intentional. It may mean that you coordinate and integrate sermon content better with your worship leader. Or, perhaps you need to train your greeters to be ready to give an answer for what they believe and explain it ways people can easily grasp. Maybe it means creating multiple opportunities to interact with one another over scripture, prayer, or the Lord’s supper.
Include something for everyone.
We’ve been talking a lot about newcomers but it’s important that you consider the full gamut of those in attendance. Everyone–without exception–has a step they can take to move closer to Jesus. Living out this journey as a congregation creates a beautiful picture of humility as we run the race set before us with grace and perseverance. There are beginner and advanced steps found in the same scriptures: be sure to give examples of both so you can meet people where they are at in their journey.
God is in control.
Remember that Jesus is in charge of the church and that God will do the work. The success of the church is not dependent upon your sermons. Take a deep breath, do, to the best of your ability, that which you have prayerfully discerned that God has placed before you, and trust God to do what only God can do.
God can work through you. “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20)
Church Growth Barriers- There are times growth seems to happen naturally until it confronts what appears to be an invisible growth barrier. What is keeping the church from growing? What obstacles are inhibiting growth? This series is meant to work in conjunction with coaching in order to address and break through invisible growth barriers.
Podcast- I recently was a guest on the Ralph Moore Podcast. Ralph is the Founding Pastor of the Hope Chapel movement, which birthed hundreds of churches. Click for Part 1 and Part 2 and listen in on our discussion that covers a breadth of issues on the topic of church planting.