Seriously, Are People Listening to Your Sermons?

Odds are that the 14-year-old girls in your church think your sermons are boring. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Seriously, Are People Listening To Your Sermons?

Have you ever had your feelings hurt by a 14-year-old girl?

You have if you’re a preacher. Because the odds are that the 14-year-old girls in your church think your sermons are boring. B-O-R-I-N-G.

You’ve never had a 14-year-old girl tell you that your sermons are boring? I dare you to ask her parents what she thinks about your preaching.

Know what they’re going to say? That’s right. She thinks your sermons are boring. B-O-R…

You get the point.

Actually, you might not. And I don’t blame you. It’s possible that you don’t even realize what’s going on. After all, you’re faithful to the Scriptures and committed to preaching the Gospel.

But is anyone listening?

Seriously. Are People Listening to Your Sermons?

Forget the 14-year-old girl for a minute. If I was to take a blind, random sample of 25 people in your church, would they be able to tell me what you said last weekend?

Do you remember what you said last Sunday? If you have to think about it for more than five seconds, the answer is ‘no.’

Look, if you can rattle off the main idea in your sermon and if you know for a fact that 14-year-old girls love to hear you preach, lemme give you some dap and send you on your way.

For everyone else still here, let’s talk about this for a minute.

If You Want People to Pay Attention…

Can we please choose clarity when we preach?

Not at the expense of being faithful to the Bible.

Not in a manner that abandons the gospel for legalism, moralism, antinomianism and any and all sorts of other -isms.

Not instead of depending on the Holy Spirit to open eyes and ears and turn hardened hearts into molding clay.

But from one preacher to another, let’s preach clearly this weekend.

How? Glad you asked.

3 Practices That Bring Clarity to Your Sermon

1. Focus your preaching. Preach five minutes shorter than usual. Have one point to your message and repeat that big idea at least a half-dozen times.

2. Simplify your preaching. Write your sermon to sound like you normally speak. Use ordinary words and short sentences. When you quote a verse, explain it before you read it.

3. Bring imagination to your preaching. Talk about real people and real situations, not abstract ideas (even when you preach on a doctrinal topic). Use the present tense when incorporating narrative into your explanation or illustration. Rather than illustrating complicated verses or ideas, illustrate the obvious.

Let’s talk more about that last idea. In Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake, here’s what Phil Campbell writes:

Illustrations are great for explaining complex ideas and touching emotions and applying your main point. But they’re also a great way to keep your listeners fresh by giving them a break. If you’ve ever struggled to find just the right illustration, this tip is solid gold.

Here it is: Don’t sweat over illustrating the complicated stuff—just illustrate the obvious!
When the pressure is off, illustrating becomes incredibly easy. The simple images and ideas in your passage will trigger all the stories and associations you need; you’ll be swamped with possibilities, and you can use them when you need them. As an exercise in my preaching class, I give students two minutes to think of a real-life story to illustrate Amos 8:2
“What do you see, Amos?” [the LORD] asked.
“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.
Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” (NIV)

Try it yourself. Ripe fruit. In fact, Israel is overripe. Remember the banana you left in your school bag for a few months? Or that orange at the bottom of the fruit bowl growing a coat of blue-green mold? The peaches on the tree at the bottom of the garden, ready to be plucked? Every student in the class could think of a story like that in moments. Start illustrating the obvious and you’ll find so many ideas for rest-stop illustrations that you’ll find it easy to keep your listeners bright and fresh. The secret? Illustrate the obvious, and the complex ideas will take care of themselves, because your listeners will be fresh and focused enough to stay with you. It’s kind of like taking breaks with kids on a car trip. Sometimes it’s smart to stop where there’s a restroom whether they need it or not—the kids may not thank you, but on the next stage of the journey they’ll be glad you did.

Do the Next Right Thing

As you prepare your next message, make the conscious choice to value clarity as your preach the Gospel from the Scriptures.

Choose to stay focused. Choose to be simple. Choose to tap into the imagination.

I’ve given you some crisp summary statements to help you follow through on your choice to pursue clarity. All of those came from the book I quote above, so do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Saving Eutychus right now. Put into practice what you learn and shake the label of B-O-R-I-N-G.

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Matt Adair
Matt Adair is the lead pastor of Christ Community Church ( in Athens, GA and the founder of Griddiron, a coaching and consulting firm that helps church leaders build your world so you can change the world. Matt is the former North American Director of the Acts 29 Network, a global partnership of churches that plant churches. Matt is married to Lindsey, is the father of three sons, and is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL.