Step One: Know Your Weirdo Congregation.
Speech Class 101: You must know your audience. Jesus talks about how his sheep know his voice, and how he knows them. John 10:27. I like this 1990's move quote,..
“Find out what the people you are playing against are interested in, and pretend you're interested in it, too. They start running off at the mouth and don't pay no attention to their cards. Medivac crew love to talk about their choppers.” ~Monfriez, Courage Under Fire (1996).
If you truly want to connect the actually studying and laboring of your textual criticism/exposition to the congregation, you better stink’n know them. I am talking about really knowing them. You know their name. Quit using, “Buddy”. You know their children’s name. You know what makes them tick. You know what they laugh, (Not the weekly jab at the opposing football team), you know what ticks them off (see previous parenthetical). You know what is currently going on in the world around them. So much so, that every point in your outline has FACES attached to them.
You not only know them, but you know how they think. You must acknowledge their way of looking at life, and use this way of thinking to channel your message. For example, if they detest the injection of government or politics into the world of religious thought or your hometowns greatest football season,…then using illustrations or metaphors that draw from these areas, may be defeating. Your wonderful sermon could have them distracted because you mentioned your accolades as a football stud, while the congregation is thinking about the new local colleges Athletic Director. They may not have your same passions for scuba diving, in fact they may hate swimming.
ASK: Does your illustration fit?
You not only know them, but you know what’s going on around them. How much sleep did they get last night? Is it hot in the room? Did the Pope make a statement last night about the sanctity of life,…would my congregation even know or even care if I mentioned it? The miscarriage that everyone knows about, but know one is addressing is important.
Before you arrogantly take the pulpit, with no regard for those people you about to talk to, check yourself. Your hours on an exposition, may be wasted if you do not take the time to connect with them. You learn this close and intimate conversation by listening and observing, and being careful of agendas or priorities.
ASK: Is this pertinent for them today?
You not only know them, but you know how to motivate. What button do I push on this individual to see them light up? Do I talk about family? Do I address military pride? Do I address impending judgment? Do I talk about the glory of God? Find that point of pressure and hone your sermon to use this. Quit talking about 1960’s television shows that inspired you as a child,…no one cares…this is not about you…know your congregation!
ASK: How is encouraging them toward holiness?
These are individuals…they have lives. God put YOU in THEIR lives, know that!