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preaching for action

“The test of a preacher is that his congregation goes away saying, not, ‘What a lovely sermon!’ but ‘I will do something.’” — Billy Graham

Confession time: there have been times in my preaching past when I was more concerned with crafting a lovely sermon than I was about inspiring people to action.  I imagine I am not alone among pastors.

The temptation is always there.  In searching for a story or movie clip, is it to enhance the loveliness of the message or to prompt a response by the listener?  Am I interested in finding the right turn of a phrase in order to impress my audience or to challenge them?

Good marketing include what is known as a “call to action.”  It answer the “so what?” question.  So what am I supposed to do about what I’ve just seen or heard?  A call to action explains the next step.  It challenges, prompts, and inspires.  A call to action is designed for one purpose: to move people to action.

For preaching, is our goal to inform or transform?  Or is it a mix of both?  In reality, we must be informative (our messages need substance) in order to be transformative.  But the end goal is not simply to pass along knowledge … or to receive a “nice message, pastor” greeting at the back door.

Our aim must always be transformation.  I want people who hear my messages to leave with a clear sense of what they can and should do.  If that action step isn’t accepted, I at least want them to leave a little bit troubled.  Troubled in the sense that they are still wrestling with what they should do.

May the days of lovely sermons be behind us.