The Devotional Approach

Devotional thoughts are usually well-written, and they often include a story, so that makes them interesting. They are not only positive but for the most part they’re upbeat. Often the point they are making reinforces a truth people already agree with, but find the remainder helpful. Then again, sometimes devotionals are profound or deep and require contemplation to be fully understood.

Most of the Sunday sermons I hear I would put in the devotional thought category. The only difference is that the sermons tend to be three connected devotional thoughts, and the content under the various points is more extensive than what you would get in a devotional calendar or in a daily devotional booklet. Maybe instead of a single illustration, several are shared in the message.

The problem with devotional material is that it is often quickly forgotten, and, in my opinion, the material seldom changes lives. Part of the reason for this is that devotional material doesn’t call for a specific response. It more or less leaves that aspect up to the discretion of the reader or the listener.

I believe this is one of the reasons today’s church sermons are not as effective as they could be. It’s also why I teach that it is important early on in the sermon-preparation process for ministers to ask themselves, What’s the response I am calling for?

The purpose of preaching is not to be interesting or humorous or thoughtful or profound or entertaining. None of these are necessarily bad in and of themselves. But we preach to change people’s lives or make them more Christ-like, and that requires speaking with a clear verdict in mind.

“So then, men out to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

If that’s the case, I strongly suggest you consciously and prayerfully keep appealing to the Lord for help all during the sermon-preparation process. Especially is this important in the early stages, when you develop your sermon ideas, because this is when you set the direction regarding what you will be saying.

“Is this the subject You want me to talk about, Lord? Is it fair to the text I have chosen? Am I on target in terms of the response I’m asking for? Am I representing Your thoughts in what I am intending to say? And can You please give me a sense of assurance that I am on the right track? I’m doing this for You, You know!”

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