Preaching Best Practices for 2022 (Part 3)
“The purpose of scripture is not to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives. So any preaching that’s not for life change is missing the purpose of the Bible.”
In Part 1 of our current series on “Preaching Best Practices for 2022,” I had a conversation with Brian Tome (Founding and Senior Pastor of Crossroads Church) to get his insights on the future of preaching and teaching. In Part 2, I sat down with Derwin Gray (Founding and Lead Pastor of Transformation Church) to discuss how he approaches series and sermon planning. In this episode, we’ll continue our preaching discussion by focusing on making preaching applicable. (In the final episode of this series, hear from Andy Stanley on preaching for life change vs. belief).
MAKING PREACHING APPLICABLE & MORE: INTERVIEW WITH RICK WARREN
Rick Warren was just 16 years old when he began preaching. By the age of 18, Billy Graham became his personal mentor, and by age 20, he had preached at more than 120 crusades. Since then, he’s pastored four unique congregations, from a rural church, to an urban church, to a suburban church, and a church overseas in Japan. It’s no overstatement to say that Rick is one of the most influential teachers and preachers of this decade. Listen in on the conversation Rick and I had, where he shared:
- Rick Warren’s ministry and teaching journey
- Clarifying the goal of your ministry
- Designing your teaching for life change
- The importance of preaching in today’s world
This Episode is Sponsored by Overflow:
Let’s face it. Church fundraising is HARD. But, 90% of US households wealth is tied up in non-cash assets. This means churches only accepting cash donations are missing massive giving potential. Overflow is here to help. Overflow is an online software that empowers donors to seamlessly give crypto and stock donations to churches and non-profits within minutes!
The average donation to churches and nonprofits is $128, but the average donation through Overflow is $9,500! Your donors WANT to give stock and crypto because it is the MOST tax efficient way to give. Why? Because there is no capital gains tax, so churches get the full donation, and donors get the full tax deduction! As a result, churches have seen up to 32x return on their investment with Overflow! Let’s unlock unprecedented generosity together. Visit overflow.co/unstuck
[Free Webinar Replay] Preaching Best Practices
Are you a pastor who is looking to...
- Make your teaching more applicable?
- Clarify what you should be teaching about in this cultural season?
- Learn how to design better teaching for believers and the spiritually curious?
- Innovate your preaching and make it sticky?
Get the video replay of this free 1-hour webinar featuring panelists Clay Scroggins, Dan Lian, and Jason Anderson.
Leader Conversation Guide
Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting?
Our Show Notes subscribers get a PDF download that recaps the episode content and includes a discussion guide you can print out and use at an upcoming meeting.
Opt-in here and get the Leader Conversation Guide for this episode, as well as access to the archive.
Share Your Thoughts and Questions on Social Media
We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.
Write a Review—It Helps!
Particularly on iTunes, your ratings and reviews really do help more pastors discover the podcast content I’m creating here. Would you take a minute to share your thoughts? Just open the the podcast on iTunes on your phone or computer, click Ratings & Reviews, and leave your opinion.
Let’s face it, church fundraising is hard, but 90% of the wealth in US households is tied up in non-cash assets. That means churches who are only accepting cash donations are missing massive giving potential. But Overflow is here to help address that challenge. Overflow is an online software that empowers donors to seamlessly give crypto and stock donations to churches and nonprofits within minutes. The average donation to churches and nonprofits is $128, but the average donation through Overflow is $9,500. Your donors want to give stock and crypto, because it’s the most tax efficient way to give. Why? Because there’s no capital gains tax. So churches get the full donation, and donors get the full tax deduction. As a result, churches have seen up to a 32 times return on their investment with Overflow. So let’s unlock generosity together. Visit overflow.co/unstuck. Once again, that’s overflow.co/unstuck (not .com).
Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. There is no doubt, scripture is full of information to study, understand and to share. But if teaching that information simply creates more knowledge, are we truly accomplishing the objective of our preaching? On this week’s podcast, Tony shares a conversation with Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church to explore what Rick’s learned in 52 years of preaching. Before today’s episode, though, if you’re new to the podcast, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’ll get resources to go along with each week’s episode, including our leader conversation guide and bonus resources, as well as access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now let’s join Tony and Amy for this week’s conversation.
Tony, this has been a fun podcast series on preaching and teaching, and it’s hard to believe, but this is actually the first time since we started this podcast, back in 2016, that we’ve done a series focused on this topic.
Yeah. If you’ve been listening to our podcast for the last six years, you may have assumed that I don’t think teaching has anything to do with helping churches get unstuck, but of course that’s the furthest thing from the truth. However, I do think in many instances, churches may over rely on teaching to help people become more like Jesus. And maybe for that reason, I’ve kind of downplayed the importance of solid, biblical teaching through the years. But obviously teaching, it’s an important component of spiritual formation. It’s just not the only thing that God uses to grow our faith and help us follow Jesus. But the reality is this may be the easiest place a pastor can make changes to help the church fulfill its mission. I mean, usually you don’t have to get your board’s approval to improve your study, preparation and delivery of your messages. Usually you don’t need a congregational vote to leverage your Sunday messages so they help your congregation engage the Bible and apply that learning. And usually you won’t have many complaints if your messages help more people meet and follow Jesus. This really is an easy shift to implement, but I completely understand this also involves a lot of hard work. So with that foundation for today’s conversation, I want to introduce the pastor I interviewed on today’s topic. Last week, I had the opportunity to connect with Rick Warren. Rick, as many of you know, is the founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, and Rick planted the church back in 1980. But as you’ll hear in the conversation, his days of preaching and teaching actually started well before that. I think you’ll both be encouraged and challenged by what Rick has to share. So here’s my conversation with Rick Warren.
Rick, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned to you directly, but your book, Purpose Driven Church, was absolutely instrumental in my transition into full-time ministry 25 years ago. And because of that, it’s really a privilege to have this opportunity to have you on the podcast today, and especially related to this topic of preaching and teaching, and not to suggest that you’re old by any means, but you’ve been preaching and teaching, you’ve been doing this for a long time. And for those who may not be familiar with your story and that whole journey of just kind of getting into ministry, could you kind of go back and share a little bit of that for us?
Sure. Well first thanks, Tony, for inviting me on. I’m a fourth generation pastor. My father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather was led to Christ by Charles Spurgeon, went to Spurgeon’s college and sent to America as a church planter and served as a union soldier, a chaplain in the union army during the civil war and then planted churches all over. I have been preaching, this is my 52nd year in preaching. I started preaching when I was 16. I was in high school, and at 16, I started speaking all over. Before I was 20 years old, I had preached 120 harvest-type crusades. Billy Graham heard about this longhaired skinny kid preaching up a storm on the west coast, and at 18 years old, he took me under his arm, and for the next 50 years, Billy Graham was one of my mentors. So I was involved in all of the conferences, helped plan Amsterdam 83/86, Amsterdam 2000. Taught at those. So I started preaching. I’ve pastored four different churches: a rural church, an urban church, a suburban church and an overseas church. The first church that I planted was when I was 17-years-old in my barn, my dad’s barn, in a rural area of Northern California, in a little town of only 500 people. And so I grew that church to a whopping 26 people in a barn as a teenager. Then the next church I planted was in Nagasaki, Japan, as an 18 year old. I moved to Japan and while I was there, I was teaching English and planted a church. Came back, worked in an inner city church in LA, where it was already about 68% Hispanic and built a ministry to gangs. And then finally in 1980, I planted a suburban church, Saddleback. So I’ve done urban, suburban, rural and international. And so I’ve preached in a lot of different kinds of countries, 165 nations now. So Kay and I ended up, a long story, it’s in that book, Purpose Driven Church, how we ended up in Southern California, started Saddleback in January of 1980 with no members, no money, no building, no support, just Kay and I. I preached the first sermon to my wife. She said it was too long. It’s been downhill ever since.
Does she still critique your messages, Rick?
Oh, she still says they’re too long. I made a commitment at the very beginning that I was committed to learning to become a master communicator. I probably have the largest personal library of books on preaching, not sermon books, but on preaching in my library. I have a quarter of a million books in my library, and I have over a thousand books just on the task of preaching. It’s a skill that you can learn, and preaching can make or break a church. Poor preaching is killing churches all around the world. The greatest influence on the health and growth of your church is gonna be the preaching and teaching that happens.
All right. So, first, regarding your library, I’m just a little bit jealous, cause I saw a clip that Ed Stetzer shared of a tour of your library. Yeah. And Rick, if you’re gonna allow Ed to see your library, someday you do have to allow me to come take a tour as well.
Oh, it’s open. Guys come by, and we give ’em tours all the time. I’ve got a lot of really cool things that I’ve collected over the years. I have Spurgeon’s music stand. I have Jonathan Edwards’ footstool. I have all kinds of really cool things throughout church history. And for instance, I’ve got a little tract written in 1776, when America, you know, gained independence, and it says, “Some friendly advice to our brothers in the colonies,” and it’s written from England and it’s a tract that says to the pastors of America, don’t revolt against King George. Stay true to the crown. Okay. And it’s hand-signed by John Wesley.
Oh my goodness.
I have Luther’s commentary on Galatians, autographed by Luther. So it’s a treasure trove of church history, all the way back to books about Augustine and earlier and things like that. I’ll show it to you sometime.
Yeah. I would love to see that, and I guess my guess is there are like thousands and thousands of pastors that would love that experience because they’ve been influenced by your pastoring, but also your preaching specifically. But I’ve always wanted to ask, especially folks like you that are profound in your influence and especially around your teaching, who has influenced you. I mean, you mentioned Billy Graham, but who are some of the preachers and teachers that have influenced your teaching?
Well, that’s a good question, and the answer is probably not very satisfying because the truth is I learn from everybody. The key to becoming an effective communicator is literally learn from everybody, not just one style. I once read through a thing, it was a 20 volume, 20 Centuries of Great Preaching. And it starts, it goes back to the biblical preachers of the New Testament and then the early church fathers all the way up to Martin Luther King and Billy Graham. And in those 20 volumes of preaching, one of the things that it taught me right off the bat is there’s no one correct way to preach, that anybody who says well, for instance, verse by verse exposition through scripture is the only way to teach. Well, I’m sorry, they’re dead wrong. They’re just dead wrong because for 20 centuries, God has used every style possible. And I could show you pastors and great giants of the faith and theologians who used exactly different styles. And so when you say that one style is the best or better than all the others, there’s a word for that. It’s called idolatry. You’re making an idol of a method. God has used every kind of personality and every kind of method to communicate his word for 2000 years of the church. And anybody who thinks that there’s only one to do it, doesn’t know church history. If I were not a pastor, I’d be a church historian because all of the lessons are in the past, while all of the opportunities are in the future. And if you know the past, then stuff doesn’t bother you. Well, we’ve seen that before. We’ve seen that heresy. We’ve seen that error. We’ve seen that cult, and we’ve seen that concept. You know, I will tell you this. Secretly, I can’t stand to listen to myself preach. And I don’t wanna watch myself on video. That would be like Chinese water torture, because I’m my biggest critic. I think we all, I think every pastor has an idealized opinion of how good we sound. And then you watch yourself on video, and video doesn’t lie, and it can be crushing. But the truth is God uses ordinary, weak people. You don’t have to hit a home run every week to build a great church, but you do have to hit consistent singles, and God uses all kinds of styles and all kinds of personality. People don’t have to become me. You know, my sermons, Tony, have been downloaded over a hundred million times. Probably my outlines have been used more than anybody alive today, over a hundred million outlines used by other pastors, but I can’t stand to watch myself. But one of the reasons, for instance, I teach seminars on church pastoring and on planting and on preaching, is to get better myself. I need to remind myself what are the things that I’ve learned over the years. And the most important thing I could say on this thing is become a lifelong student of preaching. Okay. Never stop learning. You can learn from anybody if you know the right questions. The Bible says, “Counsel in the heart of man is like a deep well, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” If I could get with every one of the people who are listening right now and spend 15 minutes with them, I could get them to teach me something because everybody’s ignorant, just on different subjects. Okay. You know things I don’t know. The person out there knows things that neither of us know. This is why humility is the baseline of preaching. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And the more humble I am, then the more teachable I am. And if you can’t learn from somebody else’s preaching style, you got an ego problem.
Yeah. That’s so true. A moment ago you were talking about the future of the church, and here’s what I know. There have been or there are several well-known pastors in your generation that have started to pass the baton onto the next generation. And so I’m just curious, when you’re thinking about this next generation of pastors, what advice specifically, would you give them related to preaching and teaching?
Well, I think the first important thing, even before you start talking about preaching, is to clarify what’s the goal of your ministry. Now, everybody’s gonna say, well, the goal of my ministry is to glorify God. Of course it is, but how? How are you gonna try to glorify God? And I, from the beginning, this is my 43rd year at Saddleback Church. We’ve already found my replacement. We haven’t announced him, the successor, to me at Saddleback. But I’ve had four goals my entire life, in my preaching and in my ministry. One is I wanna change the way unbelievers think about Jesus. I wanna change the way unbelievers think about Jesus. The second goal is I wanna change the way believers think about the Christian life. Okay? And that’s why I wrote that book, Purpose Driven Life, changed the way believers think about the Christian life. Third, my goal was to change the way members think about the church, and that’s what’s P.D. Church. And then I want to change the way pastors think about preaching. Now I don’t have the final word on it, but I am thrilled with the results. And the fact is in 43 years, I’ve baptized 57,000 new believers.
57,000 new believers. We’ve started over 7,000 small groups, 7,500 small groups. We have more people in small groups on the weekend than come to church on the weekend. During the week, more people are in small groups than those who come on the weekend. We’ve sent now over 28,000, 28,629 members of my church have served overseas on the mission field. I pastor a church of missionaries. And when you’ve sent 28,869 people overseas, when they come back, it changes their value system. So these are the kind of things. How do you get that many people in the small groups? How do you get that many people saved and baptized? How do you get that many people to go on mission and ministry around the world? It’s all in your preaching.
So, that many baptisms, Rick, two things. Number one, that that is just a life legacy of celebration of what you’ve done in so many people’s lives. The second thing though, honestly, is now I know who to blame for the water shortage in California.
Yeah, yeah, exactly right. Well, my skin is quite wrinkled from being in the baptizing pool.
That’s a beautiful, beautiful picture though. Rick, one of the aspects of your teaching that I’ve personally appreciated through the years is how you make your messages so relevant for my life, for people’s lives. And I’m assuming that’s very intentional. So, I’m assuming this is a priority for you, and with that in mind, how do you approach your message preparation with that in mind?
Yeah. Good point. Well, you’re asking great questions, Tony. In the first place, you gotta go back and say first, What is God’s purpose for us? And then you gotta ask, What is God’s purpose for scripture? Okay? God’s purpose for us is Romans 8:29 that we become conformed to the image of his son. God wanted a family. The whole reason the universe exists is God wanted a family. He wasn’t lonely. He was in relationship to himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Trinity. So he didn’t need us, but he wanted us. The Bible says, God is love. Not that he has love, but that he is love. It is his essence. The only reason we have love in the universe is cause the creator is a creator of love. And the only reason we have the ability to give and receive love is cause we’re made in his image. So God wanted a family. And once we are in his family, and there are only two ways you get into family, be born into it or be adopted into it. And both of those are used as metaphors in the New Testament, born again and adopted into the family. But then he wants us to grow up, family characteristics, like father, like son. In Romans 8:28, we know all things work together for the good of those who love God who are called according to his purpose. Makes no sense until you read verse 29, “for whom he for knew, he predestined to become conformed to the image of his son.” Now, how does God do that? How does God make us like Jesus? Am I just walking down the street one day, and all of a sudden, zap! I’m just filled with love or I’m filled with joy, filled with peace, you know, fruit of the spirit. Well, he uses two things to make us like Christ. He uses circumstances, and I won’t get into that. But the other way is he uses God’s word. And 2 Timothy 3:16 really forms the basis of all my preaching. 2 Timothy 3:16 as you know, says “For all scripture is given by inspiration of God.” and that’s pasa graphe theopneustos, “by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be perfect, or mature, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Now, if you were to ask the typical Christian or even the typical pastor, what’s the purpose of the Bible? They’d say well, there’s four purposes of the Bible: for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction, right? And I would say wrong. Those are the tools. The purpose is so that the man of God may be perfect or mature, thoroughly furnished unto every good word. So that – that’s called a “hina” clause in Greek – So that = hina, so the purpose, that’s a purpose statement. God gives us doctrine, correction, instruction and righteousness. So that, for the purpose, is this. “The purpose of scripture is not to increase our knowledge,” said D.L. Moody, “but to change our lives.” And so doctrine, reproof, for correction, instruction and righteousness so that we may be thoroughly equipped. Now the purpose of the Bible is not doctrine. It’s not reproof. It’s not correction. It’s not training in righteousness. Those are the four means to the end, so that we become what God wants us to be. It’s all about life change. So any preaching that’s not for life change is missing the purpose of the Bible. It has to be about life change. Now, what are these four things? Doctrine, it shows us the path to walk on. Reproof shows us how we got off the path. Correction shows us how to get back on the path and instruction and righteous training, it shows us how to stay on the path. So it’s all about life. Life application is fundamentally what scripture is all about. And the purpose of the Bible is life change, to change our character, that we be perfect, mature, and complete, and to change our conduct, replace the bad works with the good works. So we’d be fully qualified and equipped to do every good work. So that changes how you approach the Bible. The Bible’s not a history book. The Bible is not a theology book. It uses theology, and it uses history, to teach us how to live. “The words I have spoken unto you,” Jesus says, “they are life.” The Bible talks about hold out the word of life. The Bible talks about we proclaim the word of life. In Acts, Paul’s told, go stand and speak in the temple, the words of this life. Jesus did not say I have come that you might have information. And yet, that’s the what a lot of pastors think they’re doing. I’m just teaching the information of the scripture. He said, I’ve come that you might have life. So the Bible reveals both our relationship to God and our relationship to others. That’s the great commandment, the great commission. It is to be life oriented, not information oriented. Now, if you buy into that, that’s gonna influence everything else in the way you prepare your messages, the way you deliver your messages, the way you evaluate your messages. If you realize that the purpose is to see change in the convictions and in the character and in the conduct of listeners, not merely increase their knowledge, it’ll change the way you preached. You know, Tony, before I had had come to start Saddleback, I think I told you, I had preached over 120 crusades. So I had 10 years of messages that I stockpiled that I could have just used when I started the church. But when I did that first survey of the community, that took me three months, going door to door and finding out the needs and the hurts and the interests of the people in this area. I went back out. I threw away every single message that I had written in the first 10 years, except two, and started over with a whole new style of preaching when I started Saddleback church. It wasn’t cause they were unbiblical. It wasn’t cause they were theologically inaccurate. It’s because they weren’t focused on life change. And what I had figured out as a purpose of God for my life is to become like Christ. And the purpose of the scripture is to make me like Christ. Well then God’s purpose for preaching is to prepare God’s people for the works of service so the body of Christ can be built up until we all reach the unity of the faith and become, you know, in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole fullness of Christ. It’s about character. It’s about conduct. It’s about life change.
Well, speaking of that, you’ve been teaching, as you mentioned earlier, more than 50 years. And in addition to the life change that you and I are experiencing even today, society has changed quite a bit over the last 50 years. And I’m curious, how has your teaching evolved over those many decades now?
Well, what I’m about to say will be pretty controversial, but I believe it from the bottom of my heart and it’s built Saddleback Church, which is now on four continents. The audience that we have is constantly changing. You know, people talk about Spurgeon being a great preacher. He was a great preacher, but you can’t preach your Spurgeon sermons today cause you don’t have his audience. He didn’t have TV. He didn’t have the internet. He didn’t have radio. He didn’t have social media. Spurgeon was a genius. If he were preaching today, he would not use the style he used then. Now the scripture says, “My word will not return void.” But it’s real clear that a lot of preaching is returning void today. When it does return void, what’s the problem? Well, it’s not the message. It’s the way we’re communicating it. When we have, because society’s changing, churches are half-empty and financially strapped, and the moral climate of our community is, you know, decaying continues, and Christians act no different than non-believers. And Christians gets divorced at the same rate of nonbelievers. Singles, Christian singles, and teens are sleeping together. That’s a problem of preaching, and what we’ve got right now is the biggest current thing, is the divisiveness in our church. Okay? We’ve seen greater division in the body of Christ in the last two years than in my entire lifetime. And what we’re having right now, Tony is not just the largest number of unchurched people we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. But we right now have the largest number of de-churched people. A lot of people left their church in the last two and a half years or three years. And part of it was everything got politicized. Whether you believed in masks or you didn’t believe in masks, some people left their church cause they did believe in masks. Some people left their church cause they didn’t believe in masks. Some people left their church cause the church was encouraging inoculations, and you know, get your shot, and others left the church cause it wasn’t encouraging that, and then who did you vote for? This party or that party? And so we basically invited the divisiveness of the world into the church, and there’s a great sorting out going on right now. And I attribute that as a failure of preaching, now, part of the reason is this. Today the average person, they’re gonna go home, turn on their TV and they’re gonna watch three hours of cable TV at night. And there is no such thing as news anymore. It’s all opinion. Tell me which channel you want to listen to, and I’ll tell you what you’re feeding yourself and what you’re gonna believe. True news really isn’t out there anymore. Everything has an angle, and you tell me what kind of news you wanna believe, and I’ll tell you which network to listen to. Now, if you were getting three hours a night from commentator X or commentator Y, doesn’t matter who it is, you’re being discipled by them 15 hours a week. And then you’re hearing your pastor one hour a week. Who’s gonna win in that battle? Okay. And that’s why preaching becomes even more important since we don’t have them as much as the world has them, and their world system and their value system is being shaped by commentators on cable TV rather than by the word of God.
So Rick, given, kind of, the crisis that we’re facing, not only in our culture, but as you’ve mentioned, it’s come into our church as well, and as we wrap up this conversation, is there hope? And if so, what encouragement would you give to pastors and church leaders, especially in this season?
Well, I would say don’t give up, because I tell you what? I have a piece of stone, carving in stone, with Hebrew letters on it, hanging in my office and nobody knows what it means ’cause it’s written in Hebrews, but it says, “this too shall pass.” Okay. This is not the first crisis the church has been through for 2000 years. We have outlasted every dictator, every war, every famine, every critic, whether it was Voltaire or, you know, Stephen Hawking, it doesn’t matter. The church is the only thing that’s gonna last. A thousand years from today, I want to say this to the pastors listening, A thousand years from today, there won’t be a Starbucks. If Christ hasn’t come back, we’re still on earth. There won’t be a Starbucks. There won’t be a Microsoft. There won’t be an Apple. There won’t be, you know, Walmart, none of those will be around. There won’t be a United States of America. Why? Because nothing manmade lasts. Where’s the Assyrian empire? Where’s the Hittite empire? Where’s the Ugaritic empire? Where’s the Samarian, the Acadian empire? People don’t even know about ’em, and yet they were the big shots of their day. Everything manmade passes. This too shall pass. But heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word will not pass away. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God abides forever. So focus on the things that aren’t going to change. Everybody wants to look at all’s that’s going change, so how do we react to everything that’s changing? Well, you know what? Rather than wondering, what’s gonna change in the next five years? Focus on what’s not gonna change. People are gonna have the exact same problems in 20 years as they have now. They’re gonna be lonely. They’re gonna be angry. They’ll be guilty. They’ll be shame. They’ll be affairs. There will be jealousy. There will be conflict. And here’s the important thing to think about. There’s only one way to the father. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and life. No one comes the father, but by me. But there are a thousand ways to Jesus, and we need to be aware of the limitation of the typical gospel presentation today. The typical gospel presentation is this: You’re a sinner. You need to be forgiven. Christ died on the cross for you. And if you accept this salvation, you go to heaven. 100% true. But it’s interesting, that’s not the only way people come to Christ. I just finished a study of the 88 personal encounters of Jesus in the new testament. There are 88 of them. Personal encounters. People who came to Jesus. Not one person in the New Testament came to Christ out of guilt. Not one. Not one. About 38% of the people who came to Christ came because they were looking for healing. They had a hurt. They had a need. They had a crisis in their life. Today, I would say to pastors, more people are gonna come to Christ if they see Jesus as a healer than if they see him as the savior that gets them into heaven. Will he be the savior that gets them into heaven? Of course he will. But some people come to Christ out of physical pain. Some people come to Christ out of emotional pain. Some people come to Christ out of loneliness. Jesus didn’t care why people came to him as long as they came. Some people even came out of the wrong motivation. They were trying to trick him. Jesus didn’t care why people came to him as long as they came to him. And so to limit ourselves to say that the only way you get people into the family of God is to talk about guilt, sin and salvation into heaven. That’s 100% true, but there’s not an example of how any person in the New Testament came that way. They all came from felt needs. Some came because they were sad. They were grieving. Many people will come to Christ through grief. And I’m predicting, Tony. I said this two years ago, when COVID was just getting started, that there’s gonna be a tsunami of grief in the years ahead, particularly in this next year, that pastors need to be prepared for and to preach about because even those who didn’t lose a loved one to COVID, everybody had loss, missed experiences. They couldn’t go to the funeral of their dad. They missed the graduation. They missed the wedding. The wedding was paired down. They missed the birth of their grandchild, a thousand different experiences in life. People missed those. And there was a loss, a loss of fellowship, a loss of community, a loss of connection. And there’s going to be, once the fear, and this is happening now, the fear of COVID resides, the next emotion’s gonna be a tsunami of grief, and pastors who understand how to deal with grief will have an audience.
That was phenomenal. So much wisdom. Tony, what were of the key thoughts that stood out to you from that conversation?
Well, honestly, the first thing that stood out is his messages have been downloaded a hundred million times. Amy, do you realize that, you know, after 600 years, this podcast may be downloaded as many times as Rick Warren’s messages?
Maybe, that’s the key word. Yeah, there are a few things that stood out to me. Number one, he just, he never stops learning, and this is Rick Warren, but he never stops learning. And he said this, I learned from everybody because there’s no one correct way to preach. He said, I love this. For 20 centuries, God’s been using every style possible in teaching. And so, I just love the point he made about not making an idol of the method of preaching that we use, because God has used many, many styles of preaching and teaching to help people meet and follow Jesus.
Yeah. The second thing that stood out to me was his prioritization of preparation. And he said specifically, good preaching comes out of good Bible study techniques. And it’s just a reminder that our investment in study, it’s foundational to good teaching and preaching. And we just, we have to put the time in. And then finally, this is maybe the key thing that stood out to me. He said, essentially begin with the end in mind. In other words, the purpose of scripture, and therefore teaching God’s word, is it’s life change, and therefore Bible teaching isn’t just about knowledge transfer. It’s also about life transformation. We don’t teach just to provide information. We teach to change lives. Amy, in other words, if we approach our teaching in that way, that’s how solid biblical teaching can begin to transform people’s lives and in turn produce a healthy, thriving ministry.
Yeah. I just said the echo, my favorite also was that quote that we don’t teach to provide information, but we teach to change lives. You know, I do a lot of secret shopping, and if that was every preacher/teacher’s thought, going into their message, we would have more transformation for sure. Well, I’m so glad you interviewed Rick, Tony. Any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Yeah. If you’re a pastor who is interested in making your preaching more innovative, more applicable, and more effective, we’re going to be taking this conversation even deeper in our webinar this coming week. It’s on Thursday, May 19th. I’ll be joined by Clay Scroggins, Dan Lian and Jason Anderson for a free one-hour event around more preaching best practices. So be sure to register through the link in your show notes.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Before we wrap up today’s episode, I want to take a moment and thank this week’s sponsor, Overflow. Overflow is an online software that empowers donors to seamlessly give crypto and stock donations to churches and nonprofits within minutes. The average donation to churches and nonprofits is $128, but the average donation through Overflow is $9,500. That’s $9,500. Your donors want to give stock and crypto because it’s the most tax efficient way to give. Why? There’s no capital gains tax. So churches get the full donation, and donors get the full tax deduction. As a result, churches have seen up to 32 times the return on their own investment with Overflow. With overflow, you can unlock unprecedented generosity together. So visit overflow.co/unstuck. That’s overflow.co/unstuck (not .com). Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. So until then, have a great week.