“You remember the three Hebrews boys in the fiery furnace…”
“You remember when Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee…”
“You remember what Paul said about justification by faith alone…”
My sermons were filled with statements like these, as a young pastor. I took for granted that the congregation knew and understood these passing references. So I skipped the explanation and rushed to the point I wanted to make.
That all changed with a conversation with a member. I considered her one of the most mature young adults. But I had to hide my surprise when she told me…
“You know, Pastor. When you say, ‘You remember…’ as you are preaching, I want to stand up and say, ‘No, I don’t.’ I don’t know many of the Bible stories you mention. And I am learning a lot from your preaching.”
She meant it as a compliment. It hit me like a ton of bricks. As a result of that conversation, I determined not to assume anything in the pulpit.
Beware of three common assumptions we tend to make as we preach and teach the word of God…
- Do not assume people know the passage. Preachers tend to avoid famous passages, assuming people already know them. This is not wise. We live in a day of rampant biblical illiteracy. Many people do not know the major characters, classic stories, or fundamental doctrines of the Bible. Don’t bemoan the demise fall of Sunday School and Bible study. View this as an opportunity to introduce your people to the Bible and teach them the scriptures.
- Do not assume people understand the passage. People may know the passage you reference. But that does not mean they understand the meaning of it. It is one thing to know Psalm 23. It is another thing to know the Good Shepherd. Familiarity with the wording of a text does not guarantee spiritual illumination. Dig deep in your sermon preparation to help them see beyond superficial understanding of the text.
- Do not assume people believe the passage. A person can know the text. That person can also understand the intended meaning of the text. But do not assume knowledge and understanding translates into faith. Many congregants have been squeezed into the world’s way of thinking (Romans 12:2). Their theological, ethical, and moral views have been shaped by popular culture more than biblical truth. Faithful preaching must be apologetic. We must be ready to give the reason for our hope in Christ to our on congregations (1 Peter 3:15).
What would you add to this list of things we should not assume in the pulpit? Join the conversation in the comments section.