“The large crowd listened to him with delight.” – Mark 12:37b
People loved listening to Jesus’ sermons. Do they love listening to yours?
That’s a convicting question. But before you play the “yea, but he’s Jesus and I’m not” card, let me ask a few other questions:
Aren’t we all trying to imitate Jesus’ life? I mean, isn’t that what we’re trying to teach people how to do, anyway? So why wouldn’t we want to imitate his preaching, especially if it would mean that people would absolutely love listening to us?!
We all want to preach with the goal of life-change in mind, but we often mistakenly think that means our sermons have to be completely serious and serene, life-and-death- with-eternity-at-stake kind of stuff. We justify it with thoughts like, “If I don’t offend someone then I’m not preaching the Gospel! Woe to me if everyone thinks well of me! And people don’t like my sermons because they can’t handle the Truth!” But it’s interesting that the few people offended by Jesus were the religious elite, while the crowds that delighted in his sermons were mostly the sinners that desperately needed to hear them.
Like Jesus, I think our sermons can be transforming while at the same time really enjoyable to listen to if we imitate his teaching methods.
As I’ve studied the preaching of Jesus, I’ve noticed a few things that I think contributed to people enjoying his teaching. Here are the top 3 ways to make people love your sermons (hint: preach like Jesus):
1) A GOOD STORY
Everybody loves a good story. Jesus knew this, and he used it to his advantage to engage them in his sermons. In fact, the Bible says in his public ministry, Jesus never preached anything without using a story illustration! Matthew 13:34 (CEV) says it this way:
Jesus used stories when he spoke to the people. In fact, he did not tell them anything without using stories.
Stories are entertaining. So often we think of entertainment, especially in church or, even preaching (the horror!), as evil. The definition of entertain is “to hold one’s attention”. If someone’s not paying attention to you, then they’re not hearing the life-changing Word of God you’re throwing down. If they don’t hear it, they won’t be changed by it. We shouldn’t seek to entertain in church as an end in itself, but Jesus knew how to engage people with a story so that they would hear the truth they so desperately needed. (side-note: if you need to brush up on your story-illustrations, check out some sermons online by Perry Noble of Newspring Church. The dude can tell a story that drives home a spiritual point!)
Stories not only engage people, but they illustrate. Stories put flesh on the truth we’re trying to convey and therefore give people understanding. In other words, they reveal the “why” behind the “what”. Knowing why God wants us to do something helps give us the desire and will to do it. Therefore, stories inspire people and help motivate obey God’s Word. Finally, stories are easier to remember than a three-point outline, even if they all begin with the same letter (crazy, I know, but it’s true)!
Remembering the truth through the week is essential to people learning to live by it. People may not be able to remember your three points in the middle of the week, but they’ll remember your story, and most of the time, the truth you illustrated with it. It’s not a coincidence that most of the Bible is in story form, and Jesus used stories whenever he spoke. After all, the ultimate truth we’re trying to convey is the greatest story of all time – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus! God is the ultimate story-teller and Jesus knew how to engage people with a good story. We would be wise to do the same, and people will enjoy our sermons more if we do!
2) CONTENT PEOPLE CARE ABOUT
You don’t find Jesus discoursing on the nature of the Trinitarian Godhead or preaching verse-by-verse through the Old Testament Scriptures. He spoke about the topics that mattered the most to the people he was speaking to. This doesn’t mean we tell people what they want to hear, but rather we speak to the most pressing needs in their lives.
We see a great example of Jesus doing this in one of his greatest sermons – the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus goes through all the topics that mattered most in people’s daily lives. He talked about sex and marriage. He redefined religion. He spoke about money and materialism. He explained how to seek God and overcome worry and fear. These were the issues people WANTED to hear about the most AND desperately NEEDED to hear about the most. People loved Jesus’ sermons because they spoke into their daily lives. People will begin to love your sermons when you talk about what they care about the most.
The Bible says that one reason people loved Jesus’ sermons was because of his authority. Matthew 7:28-29 says it this way:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Jesus didn’t have positional authority like the “teachers of the law”, but his teaching had a different kind of authority, a better kind: moral authority. In other words, Jesus didn’t just talk-the-talk, he walked-the-walk. We tend to think that authoritative teaching comes from a title, position, or degree. But the most the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. But the most authoritative teaching comes from a heart of integrity spoken in an honest and authentic way. Psalm 15 says it this way:
LORD… who may live on your holy mountain? 2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart
We don’t always make the connection of our integrity to our preaching prowess, and some try to cover their tracks using the two aforementioned methods (story-telling and relevant content), but sooner or later a fake will be found out. The more you love God in your personal life and the more your heart breaks for the things that break his, the more powerful your teaching will become because it’s coming from an authentic place.
People are drawn to this kind of teaching for obvious reasons. If someone wants to learn how to climb mountains, they want to hear from someone who has climbed mountains. If someone wants to learn how to play guitar, they want to hear from an accomplished player. If someone wants to learn how to follow Jesus, they want to hear from someone who’s actually following Jesus. When you’re following Jesus authentically, your integrity will give your preaching a moral authority that is attractive to your audience.
So if you’ve been noticing people nodding off or just haven’t been feeling the love during your sermons, try preaching like Jesus.
Tell a story.
Talk about what they care about.
And follow hard after God in every aspect of your life.
Because when you live in a way that pleases God and desire to help others do the same by teaching engaging, relevant content, people will begin to LOVE to hear you preach. And that’s the moment you’ll realize you’re preaching like Jesus!
Aron Kirk is the founding and Lead Pastor of Resonance Church in Mt. Orab, Ohio. He is a gifted communicator, teacher, musician, and songwriter, driven by his deep conviction to help others meet Jesus and grow in their walk with God. Aron married his high school sweetheart, Erica, in 2005 and they have 3 children, Isabelle Rose, Judah Paul, and Selah Joy. You can read more of Aron’s thoughts on life, leadership, and God at aronkirk.com.