Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Being Interesting 07 - Reduce the Application Scope

When you are trying to really bring the point of your lesson home to be in the hearts and lives of your listeners, you should do it in ways that they can actually utilize. Too often, I have heard people overextend an application to the point that it's no longer applicable.

Here are some examples:
- In a lesson about being evangelistic, one guy made a lot of valid and motivating points, then concluded by saying, "We need to be reaching out to our friends and family, but it doesn't stop there. It isn't good enough to just be reaching to our city, or our nations...Jesus wants us to reach the entire world! We've got to be going for the whole world!" Certainly, reaching the whole world is our goal. I'm a big believer in churches using more than one worship service a year to emphasize supported mission works. But when your lesson is geared toward people who are presently living nearby, and thinking more about what they're going to do this week, it would be more productive to give them better insights for reaching their friends, rather than burdening them with a task that you don't realistically expect any of you to tackle in the next week.

- In a class that was supposed to be about drugs and substance abuse, the class started off discussing narcotics, and then began to spiral downward. "Well, really, a lot of things are drugs. If you want to get technical, nicotine is a drug. Caffeine is a drug. Chocolate is a drug. And for some people, power is a drug..." They went on and on ad infinitum to the point that there is absolutely nothing that isn't a drug, and therefore, the discussion became too broad to be useful. If we're all drug users in some way, then it relieves us of the burden to be an example or to hold others accountable.

I think your listeners find it much more helpful when the application of the message is brought down into achievable baby steps, chipping away at a larger goal, rather than just loading them up with an impossible task. Rather than guy #1 moving from friends and family to the entire world, he should have done it in reverse. "Christ wants to reach the whole world with the Gospel. We want to do our part in achieving His vision by reaching out with love to our own community. We want our friends and family to be part of God's family. We want lives to be changed here in our congregation, letting God work through our hands and our words."

If you want people to take your application seriously, make it something they can actually do.


  1. I used to say things like, "We all need to be more evangelistic" or "we need to find ways to serve within the congregation" but I had no plan as to how to get people doing those things. I have decided that I am not going to give as much application unless I can also preach a ready avenue into those things. So if I am going to call for involvement I better first have a list of things the ministries of the congregation needs to be done. If I do the right prep work I can say, "This congregations needs some people to take on these responsibilities...if you can do that meet with brother so and or sister so and so at the table in the lobby after service. I think just throwing random application out there without any paths to it just creates frustration and obstacles and makes people think we aren't really serious if even the paid minister/preacher can't tell you specifically how that can be done right now.

  2. Good thoughts, Matt. Bruce McLarty once told me that most of us preachers make a lot of Cs, a few Bs, and very rarely an A. It really takes a lot of work to make good sermons that are not only interesting and well researched, but also well applied. But the more we put into it, the more I believe our efforts will be blessed. Thanks for weighing in.