4 Reasons They Come To Hear You!

active volcano 1

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One subject which floats around the “expository preaching community” revolves around “felt-need” preaching.  With pastors, it comes in second (it may be first) only to church music.  One of the first articles addressing it in a real way was y Al Mohler, in 2006 — and is still very turbulent today.

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One of the reasons that it is active and still erupting fifteen years later is because some of the preaching ministries of some of the most effective preachers are marked by the words “felt-need.”

With all the superficial talk about preaching — or not preaching — to the “felt-needs” of the audience, the reality is that much (I think most) preaching addresses “felt needs.”  They reject the label, but not the reality  because addressing real needs was built into the DNA of preaching.

“Felt needs” is one of the motivations for attending  — week after week, and listening to the same person preach to them from God’s Word.  They know and understand that they don’t have the answers to all that the week has thrown at them and are looking for some biblical help.  They are looking for help in both thinking and action when it comes to . . . .

  • child-rearing
  • a marital issue
  • financial difficulties
  • pestering habits
  • a prodigal child
  • a very uncomfortable disagreement
  • thinking about political issues
  • a shaky job situation
  • making a major change or move in life or the life of the family
  • consistency regarding various biblical disciplines
  • et al.

In fact, introductions are typically designed to establish the relevance of the message to life and living.  Add to that the fact that sermonic application is aimed at speaking to real needs.  AND not to mention that we as pastors state that God’s Word speaks to all the needs and demands of life and living — “throughly furnished!?

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There are typically four primary reasons people — members, regular attenders, and visitors [1] — attend church — especially on Sunday morning . . . .

1 – To Act Responsibly: It is what God’s people ought to faithfully practice. The preaching of God’s Word and fellowshipping with God’s people is who we are as believers.  It is a matter of faithfulness!  [2]

2 – To Acquire Information: God’s people do what to learn what the Bible teaches.  They do want to understand the Bible and learn what it has to say.  “Theology Proper” — who God is — is important to them!  “Theology” may not be as important to them as those who have been called to the ministry.  They may not be interested in some of the technical discussions pastors and seminarians get involved in or even preach-teach about.  Nevertheless, for many, Sunday morning is the most concentrated exposure to biblical truth and principles. [3]

3 — To Untangle Life: Life is often confusing. Have you ever heard someone say — “What is that about!”  They have witnessed something or heard something and were perplexed, confused.  “Why did she just blow up like that when Bill asked them that question?” /  “After 25 years, she says she wants a divorce!  You are kidding.  What is that about?”

  One of the aims of preaching is to give coherence and understanding about life and living — in a fallen world — from a biblical vantage.  After Saul throws a spear at his very effective warrior, David, there needs to be an explanation, and the explanation is jealousy.  That does not just happen in history; it happens today and helps people understand what is happening and how irrational sin is.

Part of preaching is helping God’s people explain and understand what happens in life — i.e. — The pride, ego, and self-centeredness of men drive them to carry out all kinds of twisted plans.

4 — To Resolve Agitation:  Who of us has not experienced “mental agitation?” When thoughts clash, we seek to make mental peace.  Just like when the body ingests too much sugar, the body immediately begins to bring everything back to a proper balance and releases the appropriate amount of insulin into the system.  The body is meant to operate with everything in balance.

Likewise, events take place, words are spoken, new information is introduced, and there is a mental disruption.  When people or events throw things out of balance, the mind seeks to bring things back into balance.

    • “I didn’t know that!  Are you sure that is true?  If it is, then I am starting to take an aspirin a day.”
    • “I can’t believe that they said “no” when I asked them if they could help me out next week.  How many times have I given my time and energy.  You are kidding!  I thought  . . . but I don’t think that way anymore.”
    • “What do I do now?  My son-or-wife-or-husband walked out the door!  How do I deal with all the anxiety, fears, and thoughts which refuse to quiet down?
    • “My doctor just told me that I have colon cancer!”
    • “My daughter was just arrested on a drug charge.”
    • “I can’t even tell anybody about it.  I am too ashamed!”

Whether it is by . . . .

    • adjusting ( taking an aspirin a day),
    • seeking out more information (reading everything about that form of cancer),
    • looking for different information (getting a second opinion),
    • refusing to listen to -read-watch “upsetting” sources of information (turn on a different channel, I can’t listen to them!),
    • shutting down and cutting off people (I’m through with them!)

. . . . all are avenues for regaining our mental equilibrium.

People come to church looking for answers!  They are trying to find the path that leads back to mental and emotional peace, to mentally re-balance.  Read the Psalms, and you will see. David working through that process — sometimes he makes it, and other times he utterly fails — I Samuel 27:1

Believers, and those who know not Christ as their personal Saviour, come to church expectantly because they need some re-balancing, and/or life has thrown them a serious curve this week.  Part of preaching —  and shepherding — is to help people meet that need for balance by understanding Scripture’s truths and principles.

Who of us have not heard a message which gave us understanding, or a competing needed truth, or the direction necessary for navigating the rapids — and thereby the peace of mind was restored!

God’s people do not merely attend out of a sense of sincere spiritual responsibility or to become more theologically educated.  They come because there are some real felt reasons.  “Some” are there because they are trying to untangle life and living as a Christian.  “Some” are there because events have agitated their minds and hearts, and they need some help, some answers, or at least part of the answer.

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1. Obviously, “visitors” may attend to please the person who invited them.  Nevertheless, most do not respond to such an invitation.  How many of us have been told  —  “They are going to try to make it.” — but they never show up.  When there is a real need in their lives, they sincerely respond to an invitation and even show up.

If a pastor assumes that visitors will respond to an invitation (personal or mailed) regarding upcoming evangelistic services through a personal request or a mailed-out postcard,  he will be disappointed.  Too many distractions, alternative demands, and felt-needs are vying for the time of individuals and families.

The proof of that is seen in what is usually connected with the event — “A barbecue rib dinner with all the trimmings!”  Which, by the way, is addressing “a felt-need.”  Along with dinners, the advertising is also aimed at addressing felt-needs — “These special services are for husbands and wives (or moms and dad) who are seeking to make marriage all it can and should be!”

2.  That sense of faithfulness marks those who attend beyond the “Sunday Morning Service,” and even if there is little-to-no personal benefit per the topic, or even if the preacher is consistently ineffectiveness.

3. “Informational” is one of the main reasons new believers are so consistent in their church attendance — and their Bible reading.  The earliest days are marked by an intense interest in what they have little-to-no knowledge about, till now!

“Informational Preaching” works for new believers.  However, over time it takes a turn and those new believers, who were sitting under “informational sermons,” begin looking for something more.  That is why some churches become and are “feeder” churches to other local church ministries.

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