A few years ago at Saddleback we spent 4½ million dollars on concrete in order to build a six-lane bridge across the back part of our property. This gave us a second entrance to the church, making it much easier for our members to access the property.
I believe this bridge is a great metaphor for preaching. Our job is to construct a bridge that connects the ancient text with our contemporary audience, making it easier for them to see the immediate application of God's Word.
There are four stages to being a bridge builder.
Stage one: Study the text.
Do exegesis: observation, interpretation, correlation. As you study the text ask, "What does it say?" and "What does it mean?" Look at historical backgrounds, key words, literary structure and theology.
Stage two: Find the timeless truth or truths.
The timeless truths are the implications of the text. Find the universal principles that span all of our cultures and ask a very important question: "What response is called for by this text?"
Stage three: Study your audience.
What are their needs, their sins, their hurts? What are their interests and questions? How much do they already know and what reactions can be expected from them? Whenever I preach - no matter what part of the world I'm in - I know certain things will always be true.
- Everyone wants to be loved.
- Everyone wants their life to count.
- Life is empty without Christ.
- Many of them are carrying a load of guilt.
- Many of them are consumed with bitterness over a past hurt.
- A universal fear of death is part of every culture.
Stage four: Apply the truth to their situation.
Think of your audience and their needs. What do the timeless truths in your passage say to those needs? Application must be specific, not universal. What specific actions do you want those listening to your sermon to take?
This article is used by permission from From Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry. www.pastors.com.