A lot of work goes into preaching. Most pastors spend between 10 and 18 hours a week working on their sermons, with many spending more than 20 or even 30 hours. With all that work going into preparing a sermon, it can be a bit disheartening to know that most people forget most of what they hear within days, if not hours.
Recently I was challenged to think more critically about my preaching, specifically when it comes to application. Often when we preach, the application of that preaching is for use in the church, or in our private Christian lives. It may be how to serve in ministry, how to pray, read our Bibles, or live out any other number of Christian disciplines. There is certainly nothing wrong with sermons that teach us how do any of this, as they are a part of Christian life and growing in these areas is drastically needed. We need to preach sermons that cover these topics. However, effective preaching, preaching that sticks with people, should cover far more ground.
Think about the average person’s week. Most working adults will spend 40, 50 or 60 hours a week at work. Many people sitting on the pews Sunday, have families and friends that they will share most evenings and weekends with. Some will spend hours enjoying hobbies, whether that is playing golf, watching baseball, or running half marathons. They’ll coach pop warner, volunteer in civic organizations, and take naps. Those are all great things. On the not-so-great side, some studies say the average American is spending over five hours a day watching TV, and spending countless hours online mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Those that attend church will also sit in service for an hour, or hour and half, each week. Additionally, they may even volunteer in a ministry or attend a class. Hopefully they will spend time praying and reading their Bibles as well.
Here is the issue though, even if we rounded up, and said the average person sitting on the pews spends 10 hours a week in church and focused on spiritual disciplines, it is still only 10 hours. Ten hours is a pretty small part of someone’s week. Clearly, the majority of people’s time is spent outside the church, whether it is with family or watching ESPN.
This is where many sermons miss the mark. With people spending 158+ hours of their time outside the church each week, sermons that exclusively focus on the 10 hours are not addressing the largest part of people’s lives. The challenge I was given a few weeks ago was worded this way, when you are preparing your sermon for a Sunday, don’t think about where the people in the congregation are going to be 10:00am on a Sunday…think about where they will be at 10:00am on Monday. They most likely won’t be sitting in a church pew, they will be sitting in a cubicle at work. They won’t be rushing around the church serving, they will be rushing around town doing errands. They won’t be sitting and listening to you, they will be sitting and listening to their professor lecture or their doctor give them a diagnosis. Think about where they are going to be at 10:00am Monday morning and make sure you sermon speaks to that situation. Think about how to apply your sermon to the largest percentage of people’s lives, their life outside the church, and it will be much more memorable.
At lot more people would remember our sermons if we would think about how they were going to apply what we were saying on a Monday at 10:00am.