If God’s objective for every believer is to transform us into total Christlikeness, then the objective of preaching is to motivate people to develop Christlike convictions (to think like Jesus), Christlike character (to feel like Jesus), and Christlike conduct (to act like Jesus). Every other objective of preaching is secondary.
At the end of the sermon, if people aren’t being transformed in how they think, feel, and act, I’ve missed the mark as a preacher.
To put it another way, the ultimate goal of preaching is not information. In fact, giving people a greater knowledge of the Bible can cause pride to develop in our hearers rather than humility if that information isn’t translated into obedience. And the goal if preaching is not merely instruction either. Preaching certainly includes instruction, but there is more to preaching that mere behavior modification. The goal of well-rounded preaching is transformation and obedience.
If we preach with life transformation as our goal, then the result will be believers who are more obedient to the Bible, and we call obedient believers disciples. Just look at the challenges Jesus gave as He taught people—He continually expected people to do something as a result of hearing Him.
“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17 (NIV)
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37 (NIV)
“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matt. 7:26 (NIV)
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt. 12:50 (NIV)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matt. 7:21 (NIV)
“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…” John 14:23-24 (NIV)
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” Luke 11:28 (NIV)
Pastors, we are in the business of producing repentance. And repentance is more than being sorry, it’s more than confessing sin, and it’s more than changing some bad habits. Repentance involves a total change of our thinking to be in agreement with God, which affects our emotions and moves us to act in obedience.
Repentance is changing minds at the deepest level—the level of beliefs & values. We preach to produce the ultimate paradigm shift for people—the very transformation of their lives. And it’s serious business!
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.