When I was called into ministry in 1995, my audience primarily consisted of Baby Boomers, my parents generation. I had to learn to preach God’s Word in a way that they could understand. As I grew older, I found that I was preaching to more and more of my peers – the Busters. Today, I’m seeing that an ever growing aspect of my congregation are the Millennials, my children’s generation.
There are a variety of nuances to how each of these generations receive the preaching of God’s Word. But essentially they are all sinners in need of a Savior and the rules of logic work the same for each. Presuppositions change. I’ve noticed a need to do more “pre-evangelism” with Millennials that wasn’t required with Boomers. When I said “God” to a Boomer congregation, it was assumed I was referring to the Triune God of scripture. When I say “God” to a group of Millennials this isn’t always the case. I have to back up a few steps and start the conversation at a different point.
However, it is important as we consider preaching to various generations that we remember there are a dozen more generations ahead of us if Christ doesn’t return before they are born. So our approach must be two dimensional. We must reach out geographically AND generationally.
1. The Sermon must be Evergreen –
Thus we must preach in such a way that our messages are “evergreen”. I borrow this term not only from the forestry world, but the world of blogging. A good blog post is considered “evergreen” meaning it will be just as valuable in six months as it is today.
An evergreen sermon is one that was just as true in the first century as it will be in the 31st century. Preaching evergreen sermons requires us to peel off some the cultural influences, references, and illustrations that we are accustomed to employing. Evergreen sermons will also be more effective at crossing ethnic and cultural barriers.
Think about the most popular podcast preachers or radio ministries. Typically, communicators will be very careful to avoid references to recent events, cultural colloquialisms, and anything that could date the sermon or cause a barrier to comprehension.
2. The Sermon must be Deep –
Evergreen sermons are also as deep as they are broad because the goal is to so develop the hearer into a true disciple that he or she will replicate themselves in others. This is the only way we can assume that the truths we proclaim will progress to a generation beyond us.
By deep I don’t at all mean beyond comprehension, but I do mean they must go beyond a surface understanding. When developing a thought from the text, take the time to mine out the theological concepts that are behind it.
3. The Sermon must be Available –
If your sermon is going to impact many generations, it must be available to them. It is believed that Apollos was a far greater preacher than Paul, but you can’t confidently quote a single sermon from Apollos. Why? We have no record of his sermons (unless he wrote Hebrews). The lesson is – write things down! Make sure you capture your thoughts in a way that will outlive you.
I see the ministry of the Word as fivefold:
- Discover – that is study the Word in a spirit of prayer.
- Develop – that is write sermons in a way that convey the truth of the text to your people.
- Deliver – that is preach the sermon in a way that taps into their mind, will and emotions.
- Disseminate – that is ensure your sermon is captured in print, audio, video and delivered on as many platforms as possible. If possible convert your sermons into book form.
- Devote – this is, “rinse and repeat”. This process should be done with great patience – trusting God to give the increase.