Preaching to one congregation is hard work. Preaching to multiple congregations can be exhausting. Whether you preach multiple services at your church, or you preach to several different congregations, the challenges of preaching to multiple and diverse congregations are legion. The quantity of preaching is not necessarily the issue, in fact, as my preaching professor Dr. Hershael York use to say, “A preacher preaches!” and as preachers we should preach as much as God gives us opportunity and prudence allows.
The issue that quickly becomes relevant in preaching to different congregations that I have found is connecting with diverse audiences. As an exegetical preacher I want to ensure that the truths of the Word communicate with the audience I am speaking to.
Here are a few things I keep in mind as I prepare to preach to multiple congregations:
Spend time with the people of each congregation. The more time I spend with my flock(s) outside Sunday morning the better I know what they think about the world, what they are in to, the sin they struggle with, and how to apply the Gospel to their lives. Not only do I know them better, but they get to know me better and readily accept my teaching.
Use language that is appropriate for each audience. I love to talk original languages, theology, and geek out over typology. But my preferences don’t always communicate with my audience. As one of our elders at Risen Life Church, Robert Marshall, says often, “Know what to say and how to say it.” At Risen Life, I preach more technical sermons with further developed points since there are seasoned Christians in attendance. At Gateway Community Church, I preach in simpler terms, explaining every word I use for the new believers that make up this congregation, many who are recently coming out of Mormonism.
Here’s a sermon prep tip for helping you communicate appropriately for each audience: Write out the main point of your sermon in a way that would please your favorite seminary professor. Then state your point so that a regular member of your congregation would understand. Next try writing your point for a youth kid, a child, and finally a non-believer. Working on writing your main point with these different audiences in mind will help you refine your point and communicate it effectively.
Be sensitive to the needs of each individual congregation. Different congregations have different needs. The traditional service may be mourning the loss of one of the founding members of the church, while the contemporary service may be celebrating the birth of four babies. The church you regularly speak at may be growing, while the little church down the road you help through pulpit supply may be in decline. Be sensitive to the needs of each congregation and modify your sermon as needed to speak to those needs.
Be faithful to the text and trust God to speak by the Holy Spirit to each congregation. No matter how much I try to be sensitive to the different audiences that I may preach to, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit’s job to speak through me to my congregation(s). My job as a preacher is to be faithful in committing myself to prayer and the preaching of the Word. I do everything I can to prepare to communicate the Gospel in my sermon, and then I trust that God will use my efforts for his glory.
Stand and deliver…and then do it again…in a different pulpit.
Jared Jenkins is husband to Amie and father of three boys. He serves Risen Life Church in Salt Lake City as the Minister of Discipleship and Missions. He graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.