How to Preach For a Specific Response

Rick-Warren-Book-smallThe Bible is clear that Christians must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only,” (James 1:22) so it’s clear that our responsibility as pastors and preachers of the Word is to challenge people to do something in response to what we’ve said. In other words, the goal of preaching is life change.

How can you add more application into our message to make God’s Word more doable? Always aim for a specific response.

The greatest weakness of most preaching is that the sermon has a fuzzy focus. So many sermons are vague & abstract because the pastor isn’t really clear about why he is teaching this particular message, nor does he give the audience a specific direction to go in response.

It’s easy to be abstract, but it takes effort to be specific, but nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific! A well-prepared sermon should be more like a bullet than buckshot. Know your purpose and aim right for it!

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The most important question you can be asking as you are in the process of studying and preparing your sermon is what specific response am I going to ask for?

Since you are preaching for action, for a verdict, and for a commitment, you should prepare everything about the message with the end and the stated goal in sight.

Plenty of books on preaching advise you to dig to discover the “big idea” in the text. This is vital, but it isn’t everything. The big idea of the text is the what? of the sermon, but people also need to hear the so what? Ask these three questions before you finish preparing to preach:

  • What do I want them to think? That is, how will this message challenge their mind?
  • What do I want them to feel? How will this message challenge their heart?
  • What do I want them to do? How will this message challenge their will?

After you’ve answered these questions and have thoroughly understood not only the big idea of the text but also the main application, condense the objective down to a single sentence. This will help you to focus, which will help you to be clear, which will in turn help people to know exactly what to do in response to what you’ve said.


Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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