Shawn Bateman, Misionary to Argentina
August 31, 2017
As preachers and teachers of God’s word, our job is not to lecture our class or congregation on the truths of God’s word. We don’t simply educate our listeners so they can add to their Biblical knowledge. We preach and teach for changed lives; our job is to make the word on paper come alive in hearts. One preacher said “When you preach, don’t aim to lecture on the water of life, but to give your listeners a drink.”
This is very true, and to do so requires making application of the Scriptures to the people’s lives. What I have found in preaching 18 years is that applying the scriptures can be somewhat difficult at times. So here are a few things to consider when looking for applications and making them.
1.- Know the text:
The task of the pastor and teacher is to proclaim the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2) and to explain them in such a way that his congregates understand what the Scriptures are saying (Nehemiah 8:8). So our first responsibility is to ensure the text is properly understood in its context. In order to do this we must have a clear understanding of the text ourselves. We must know our source material and know it well. Simply stated, if we can’t explain the text we won’t be able to apply the text.
2.- Ask questions:
This is very closely tied to point number one. Why? Well because good application comes the same way good exegesis (explanation or interpretation of a text) does: mainly by asking questions. By asking questions you are able to discover and look into all the dimensions of the text. I once heard a preacher say this was why the Puritans were masters of practical preaching. They would take a text and turn it over and over, looking at it from every possible vantage point. Don’t only ask your own questions but ask the questions your church members might ask: the grandfather in your church, the young single mother, and the awkward teenage boy. This brings me to my next point.
3.- Know your audience:
One old preacher once said that sermon preparation needs to include not only the use of gray matter but also shoe leather. What did he mean? He meant pastors should visit and know the flock. I remember listening to a preacher who I admire greatly and thinking, “man, he makes such good applications.” I began to think about this and realized that the reason he has the ability to apply the scriptures and bring those truths to the hearts of his hearers is that he knows people. If a doctor knows his patients and their symptoms he can prescribe the right medication to help them. This takes place only after he examines them. Same is true here. Pastors can bring things down to their people if they know where their people are.
4.- Aim for the heart:
Okay, so this point is vague, but I know what I mean and I think you do also. I’m not speaking about emotions; however, we are emotional creatures and it is imposible for someone to be affected without their emotions being affected. What I am saying is this; your application should move them, and in order to move them it must reach their heart. When we reach the heart we reach the entire person. So when we make application we must make it personal. There are many times that various applications can be made from a passage, but we want our listeners to see for themselves how the text applies to their lives.
5.- Be patient:
I want to encourage you to be patient. I think making applications is a skill that is developed over time. I’m not great at it, but I do think I have improved. This comes with experience, your own experience and also your experience with helping others. Older preachers are more adept at this than young preachers. Why? Because they have been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. They have seen it all, the good, bad, and the very ugly. Through their experiences they have a better handle on what’s in peoples hearts, and how better to make the scriptures alive to their people.
6.-Trust the Holy Spirit:
Ultimately this work is a work of the Holy Spirit. He is the author of the book we preach, and only He truly knows each heart that sits in our audience. Where we fail He will always sucede. He can apply His word to each specific heart and situation and bring conviction and change.
Brining it Home :
Let us faithfully proclaim God’s word, and aim at the heart. We must strive to wisely apply the truths of the scriptures and trust in the power of God’s word and the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our hearers.
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