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Who is your preaching audience? To prepare your sermon properly, you need to know exactly who you are preaching to or you might miss your target.
We preach the Bible but we preach those Bible truths to the needs of the people to whom we are preaching. So, who are you preaching to? It is one of the first questions you should ask when you are scheduled to preach.
Now I know that if you are pastoring or you preach to the same people every time you preach or teach, you most likely already know your preaching audience. But if you speak to a different group of people often of maybe every time you speak, you need to ask some questions from the one or ones who scheduled you to speak.
Don't minimize the importance of knowing your speaking audience. I remember when I was at the University of Arkansas playing football, I led one of my teammates to the Lord. He started following me around like a little duck and I discipled him and took him on some of my preaching engagements and asked him to give his testimony of salvation before I preached.
Not long after that, he surrendered to the call from God to preach himself. He made the call public at my church and his church and at our Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting and other Christian organizations we attended on campus like Campus Crusade, so that he could be used of the Lord to preach and fulfill his new calling.
It wasn't a very long time at all until he was contacted by a church in a country town not far from Fayetteville, Arkansas, where we lived in the Athletic Dorm, who asked him to come and preach. He was scared because this was his first preaching engagement so he asked them if he and I both could come and preach. They agreed.
When I got back to the dorm that night my roommate told me about the phone call and was very excited about his first preaching engagement. I was excited with him so I began to ask him about the engagement, especially since I was scheduled to preach with him. I asked him the questions I normally ask when I schedule a preaching engagement for myself.
The first thing I asked him was who is our preaching audience? You know, exactly who are we preaching to? His answer was I don't know.
Then I asked him if it was a regular church service with adults and youth and children or just a youth meeting like we get asked many times to come to? His answer was I don't know.
I asked him what the occasion was? Was it a regular church service or revival or a youth rally or class or banquet or special occasion or what? His answer was I don't know.
I asked him if we would be speaking in the church auditorium or in a fellowship hall or classroom? His answer was I don't know.
I asked him if the pastor spoke of any needs that, whoever we were speaking to, might have or give us a subject that we were to speak on based on the preaching audience and the preaching occasion? His answer was I don't know.
Well, I thought maybe if we have the name of the church we might get an idea what kind of Christians we would be talking to, so I asked him the name of the church. You guessed it! His answer was I don't know.
In fact, all he knew was the time we were to speak and the highway the church was on but not how long it took to get there. He didn't even get a number to call the pastor back, in case an emergency came up and we needed to cancel, so we couldn't call and ask anyone these questions. We just had to pray and prepare the best that we could and show up. And that's what we did.
Come to find out it was farther out that highway than expected and we got there late and were immediately ushered up to the platform amidst a very wild and crazy and exciting worship service...much more exiting than his Methodist and my Baptist church upbringing could ever imagine! Needless to say, while we were waiting to speak, I got some very sacred and very nervous looks from my new preaching partner! He got some "I'm gonna kill you" looks from me!
It was kind of like Wendy Bagwell who went with his singing group to minister at a church which, they found out after they had finished singing, was a snake-handling church. When they pulled out the rattle snakes, Wendy politely declined to hold one and then asked his drummer where the back door was. His drummer told him that he already looked for it and there wasn't a back door. Wendy then asked his drummer excitedly, "Reckon where they would like one?"
I hope I didn't offend any of you "wild and crazy" churches or preachers, because we ended up preaching in many different kinds of churches after that, including the "wild and crazy," and were welcomed graciously and treated royally. We gladly accepted all preaching engagements, but it did help to know exactly who we were preaching to before hand.
You wouldn't want to prepare a sermon on the horrible characters of the tribulation and end up preaching to preschool children. You wouldn't want to prepare a sermon on adultery and end up preaching to grammar school children.
You wouldn't want to prepare a sermon on the horrors of hell and end up speaking at a Valentine banquet. You wouldn't want to prepare a sermon on being saved while you are young and end up preaching to the Senior Saints class.
I do know this...my preaching partner never scheduled another preaching engagement without knowing exactly who he was preaching to. It sure would have come in handy to know the preaching audience at his first preaching engagement.
We not only preached to a mixed age group in the regular church service (though more wild and crazy than we were used to...yet totally loving and gracious), but we also spoke to just a youth group after the regular service. The Lord was good and it worked out fine but I think we could have done a better job of targeting the needs of each kind of group and each age group if we had known who they were, ahead of time.
Before you preach make sure you know your preaching audience!
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