Let the Need Drive the Direction

Lesson Notes Below

Lesson:  Let the need drive the direction.

  • Occasion: Saturday Briefing for Ministers
  • Date: October 24, 2020


The preacher runs the risk of two extremes.

First extreme: Life turns into a series of Sundays.

  • Example: It’s like your daily commute – after awhile you stop seeing the beauty and all you’re doing is trying to get from point A to point B. 
  • That can happen to a preacher.  When life turns into a series of Sundays then life turns into an endless pursuit of preparing for the next sermon.

Second extreme: Our love for study and sermon preparation can cause us to make Sunday more about our sermon than the ones listening to it

  • Example: My high school biology class – dissecting a worm and a frog. It was interesting and fascinating. But it killed the worm and the frog.
  • In the same way, our love for study and sermon preparation can turn us into forensic scientists and our sermons can be more like discussing an autopsy from a crime scene than providing something that is alive and powerful and an empowering.   
  • Our people may leave service impressed with our knowledge of the scriptures, having found our message quite interesting, but, like my biology class, finding little that will impact their everyday life.  

There is one thing that both of these extremes have – the emphasis is on the sermon and not the congregation. 

What I’d like to propose is: Let the needs of the congregation guide your sermon preparation.

  • By putting your congregation before your sermon preparation, you commit yourself to: Providing solutions to the needs of your congregation. 
  • Or to put it another way, your sermon is prepared in order to achieve something specific and helpful for the people you serve.

Concern: This sounds so “people centered” vs. “bible centered”. 

Response: You are a shepherd not a professor of animal husbandry.  The care and well-being of your congregation and community should be your primary concern. 

  • The Bible is not a textbook to be taught; the Bible was written to real people in real time for a specific purpose.  Of course, teaching the Bible will be a part of your ministry, but applying the Bible to the real people in real time where you serve should be a primary goal of your preaching. 
  • Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are called to mimic the Good Shepherd – “The Lord is my shepherd, he leads me…”  (not just teaches me)

The benefits of letting the needs of your people drive the direction of your sermons are:

First: It causes you to focus on pastoral care (being with your people, listening to your people, etc.)

  • Example: When I get an envelope from Headquarters with a label vs. a typed addressed.

Second: It keeps your sermons alive – they are designed to achieve something meaningful in the lives of the listener, not just inform.

  • Example: It’s the difference between attending a concert/ball game to enjoy the music (or because your spouse dragged you there) and attending when your child is preforming. 

Third: It keeps you fresh in your presentation – for the need drives the presentation not your comfort.

  • Example: the different presentation between a mother putting her child to bed vs. cheering for them at a soccer game (The need determined mom’s presentation.)
  • Example: Jesus
  1. Sat and taught the in-depth teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.
  2. He read a passage of scripture out of Isaiah and made one comment and sat down to drive home a point in his local synagogue.
  3. He cursed a fig tree to illustrate the barrenness of Israel.
  4. He pushed over tables and whipped merchants to drive home the point of the sanctity of his Father’s house – for all people. 
  5. IOW, what he was trying to achieve determined his presentation.


Thesis (The Central Thought): The needs of the congregation you serve should guide your sermon preparation.  Moreover, a particular sermon should provide a solution to a specific need of your congregation.  In other words, your sermon should achieve something specific and helpful for the people you serve.

What to do?

When determining what to preach on next, before doing anything by way of preparation, answer this question as clearly and succinctly as possible:

“In light of my people’s greatest need, what do I hope to achieve with this sermon?”


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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