How to bring the gospel to life while preaching
By Jim Burnett
Last year a giant camped out in my office for several weeks. He was an imposing fellow, standing 9½ feet tall.
Who was he? Goliath—or at least a life-size Styrofoam version of the mighty Philistine warrior.
The last two messages in a sermon series dealt with David taking down Goliath. I wanted people to see just how big Goliath was in comparison to David.
It’s one thing to read about someone 9 feet 6 inches tall. It’s another to see him towering above you. That figure helped drive home the story.
Many biblical lessons can similarly be enhanced if we add the visual to the audial. Edgar Guest was right when he said, “The eye is a better pupil, more willing than the ear.”
But even if we don’t have a physical illustration, we can use imagery in our teaching. That’s why I believe Jesus used parables to teach the gospel. He wanted to paint a picture in the mind of His hearers so they would remember the truth and be transformed by it. Jesus used creativity to teach and preach the gospel. Shouldn’t we do the same?
Recently I preached a four-week series titled “Celebrating God’s Creativity Through the Arts.” Each Sunday a local artisan joined me on stage, highlighting a different discipline of art, such as pottery and painting. People are still talking about the spiritual lessons learned during the sermons as the artists plied their trades.
Recognize creativity as a tool of application and transformation
Creativity is from God. The very first verse of the Bible reminds us of this: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
Being creative sometimes requires us to think outside the box or color outside the lines when we tell His story.
Jesus taught imaginatively. In His parables, Jesus used fictional characters to speak to people in their context. His listeners responded in great numbers.
Are you using creative and innovative methods in your teaching to help people grasp God’s unchanging truth in their changing context? Do you use screens so people not only hear a message but see it? How about sermon props or displays to give extra insights with your preaching?
Use the gifts and talents of your people
Jesus often involved people as He taught and practiced the gospel. When teaching the powerful lesson that God is our ultimate provider, He used a little boy’s fish and bread and His dozen disciples to facilitate the miracle. He involved people.
Of the four artisans I enlisted for the series, two were from our own congregation: a married couple with amazing proficiency in their disciplines. The wife was a potter and the husband a sculptor.
Two other artisans from our community, a leather tanner and a well-known painter, also participated. As they demonstrated their skills, I preached and interacted with them to link spiritual truth.
The Sunday I preached about how God conforms us to the likeness of His Son, the sculptor shaped the image of Christ out of a mound of clay. I reminded the congregation that God is at His bench molding, fashioning, and shaping something special into our lives. We are His clay, but Jesus is His model.
Unpack your uniqueness
Jesus used innovative ways to share the good news. Don’t be afraid to do the same. Employ the unique abilities God has given you in your ministry. Sometimes the only way to know if you have certain talents is to use them.
Jesus used stories to cement the truth in His hearers’ minds. His parables were profound and continue to be used today. Whether you use sermon props, illustrations, stories, or other creative methods, just make sure you are delivering the message in a way that connects with the congregation and comes from your own unique passions and abilities.
Spread the Word through technology
Here in our Mississippi county, more than 40,000 people aren’t connected to a church. We want to reach them—and creative use of technology can help.
Recently a church member posed a challenge to our people: He wanted members to share our Facebook Live service from their smartphones. They agreed. Now, in addition to those in weekly attendance, 800 to 1,000 people view our services online. This technology does not cost us one cent.
While worship by proxy is not a good practice, those who view the services and hear the message online may be prompted by the Holy Spirit to come and visit in person. In fact, we’re expecting them.
We never want to change the truth of the gospel, but we also never want someone to fail to hear that truth because we’re communicating it the same way we always have. Get creative with your preaching and teaching, even if it means a giant man fills up your office for awhile.
JIM BURNETT is pastor of Willow Pointe Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi