I’ve been to a few dozen conferences over the last 20 years and I’ve always walked away with at least one or two takeaways that have helped our church to become healthier or more effective. But nothing has changed our church more than the principles I first heard about nearly twenty years ago at a Preaching for Life Change conference.
Those simple principles supercharged our discipleship process and are responsible for literally thousands of lives changed (BTW – we are NOT a megachurch).
As we have taught these principles to other pastors, we’ve boiled them down to the acronym C.H.A.N.G.E.
C = Change is The Product of Belief, Not Behavior
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” ~ Romans 12:2
Behind every sinful behavior is a lie that person is believing. When a person commits adultery it’s because at that moment they believe that will meet their needs. They believe they can sin and they won’t get caught.
Trying to change people’s behavior without transforming their beliefs is called religion. True transformation always begins in the mind.
Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”
H = How I preach affects how they change.
God’s word is reliable, powerful and relevant. So, if we’re not seeing lives changed in our congregation it’s not the Bible’s fault, it’s probably ours.
The problem is that most preachers were seminary trained to deliver sermons that provide more information than transformation. Preaching for life change is NOT a matter of preaching style, it’s matter of preaching skill.
It doesn’t matter if your style is topical, expository, narrative, etc. If people are incapable of understanding what they’re being asked to DO with what they’ve heard, then our sermon was a glorified truth abortion.
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:22
A = Ask yourself three questions before every sermon.
1. WHO will I be preaching to?
2. WHAT are their greatest needs?
3. HOW can I best apply the truth of the Bible to the situation of my people?
This is not seeker-sensitive preaching or shallow preaching or even topical preaching. This is preaching like Jesus.
“With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity.” ~ Mark 4:33, The Message
N = Necessary Ingredients for a Great Message
There are 7 ingredients for powerful life-changing messages:
1. Make it practical. Aim for specific steps they can start doing immediately!
“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.” ~ 1 Peter 2:21, The Message
2. Keep it positive. The gospel is GOOD NEWS!
“Do not use harmful words in talking but only helpful words, the kind that build up…” ~ Ephesians 4:29a, GNB
3. Be encouraging. Don’t just tell it like it is, tell it like it CAN BE!
“A word of encouragement does wonders!” ~ Proverbs 12:25, TLB
4. Keep it simple. Don’t use the pulpit to show off your education. Keep the jam on the bottom shelf where your people can reach it.
“My preaching was very plain, not with a lot of oratory…” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:4, TLB
5. Keep it interesting. Vary your flow and delivery. Use props, images, testimonies, special elements, etc.
“Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message. Choose your words carefully…” ~ Colossians 4:6, CEV
6. Make it personal. Share your own strengths and struggles. People learn more from your struggles than your strengths. It actually encourages people to know that even their pastor has problems and doesn’t always get it right.
“We were delighted to share with you, not only the gospel of God but our own lives as well.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:8, NIV
7. LOVE your people. Powerful love trumps poor preaching all day long. Nothing is more powerful than authentic love.
“If I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1, GNB
G = Get a Plan
Planning ahead is both biblical and fruitful!
“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” ~ Proverbs 16:3, NLT
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” ~ Proverbs 21:5, NLT
I challenge pastors to create a 12-month plan with about 8-10 sermon series. Planning ahead builds momentum, equips your members for inviting, allows for greater creativity, provides more time to gather materials, and reduces stress!
E = Evaluate Constantly!
“Spiritual people evaluate everything…” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:15, GW
Every professional sports team knows that you’ll never get better unless you’re constantly reviewing what you’ve been doing.
Preaching is like marriage, you NEVER stop working on it.
Preaching for Life Change is just one of the tools for growing a healthy and vibrant disciple-making church. Since 2007 we have trained nearly 4,000 church leaders in 8 countries including the U.S. Join us for our annual The DREAM Church Conference and let’s grow the kingdom together!