Yesterday I wrote about attention spans and suggested that the important question was not to do with how we felt people were doing at staying with us for the duration of the sermon but three key questions.
- How much do they take in?
- How long are they able to retain it for?
- How are they doing at applying it?
This third point is crucial. If our congregation are not able to apply the preaching, then it is ineffective, it lacks fruit. So how can we be effective in helping people to apply God’s Word. Well, controversially here I am going to suggest that we might need to cut down on the amount of application.
Just to reassure you, I am not saying that we should turn our sermons into theoretical lectures. I believe we should be aiming for sermons that are application rich. However, consider this. When I used to work in industry I would meet with my team members each year for their personal development review. We would agree two or three objectives in terms of things they needed to accomplish and things they needed to work on to improve. We learnt that it was better to set one or two objectives that the person could concentrate on than lots of objectives that they would not fully meet.
Now, let me take you to church. Instead of getting two of three objectives to work on per year, the hearer gets two or three (at least) per sermon. If they attend morning and evening, then that doubles up. If they attend home group, then that is two or three more applications to work on. Then there’s the personal quiet time, the podcasts they are listening to and the books they are reading. They are getting bombarded with application. When are they meant to work on living that out?
What if instead, we focused on making sure that there was one clear thing that we should be working on together as a church each week or over a period of weeks? In effect it would mean slowing down the pace of church life and personal life in some respects. However, maybe it would result in greater fruitfulness.