A reader emailed me last week with a question about doing application in sermons. I bet many preachers have the same question as Glenn (published with his permission):
Hi Eric, I read your post about preaching like Mark Driscoll without sounding like him. You mentioned that Driscoll’s applications are very specific, and I’m wondering if you could recommend some resources to help me be pointed in my applications. I am a tentmaking pastor in Connecticut, so I already don’t have as much time to work on my sermons as I wish I could have. But I have often felt that specific application is the hardest part of preaching.
I have read several books on the topic and they all encourage me that preaching’s aim is to change lives, but the books themselves are not always specific in how to do that. Can you recommend any books or articles that could bd helpful? Should I try listening to Mark Driscoll’s sermons as positive examples? Thanks very much for any help you can offer.
Here’s my response. I hope it helps you, too:
Kudos to you for embracing ministry among some hard soil. My heart goes out to pastors in New England, since I am friends with a couple pastors in the Boston area.
You have hit the dilemma regarding preaching with specific application: it’s hard to do when you don’t have that much time to put into your sermon. If you’re like me, often you spend most of your time figuring out what the darn passage means, so that there is little time left to consider illustrations and application!
I have to admit that I’m naturally more theoretical than practical, so developing good application in sermons has always been a struggle for me. That’s why I notice when guys like Driscoll or Matt Chandler do application so well. Listening to them has helped me develop more of a disposition toward application.
Also, I’ve grown in my ability to tell if I’m working down an interpretive path that will bear fruit in my sermon, or not. Most of what I study in the text and the commentaries doesn’t make it into my sermon. Maybe you can identify with that. If I can tell that an interpretive issue won’t be necessary or appropriate for sermon purposes, I usually go on to the next thing, so as to leave more time to develop application at the end.
But the person who has helped me most in applicational preaching, as of late, is Tim Keller. He has some great lectures at the Tim Keller Wiki website. This is a goldmine, and I have a link to it on my blog. At the site, the lectures/sermons are listed by year. In no particular order, I recommend these five:
1. In 2007-2008, there is a series called “Preaching to the Heart,” which is good.
2. His 2009 message at The Gospel Coaltion national conference, “The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry,” is awesome.
3. I’d also check out “Preaching to Believers and Unbelievers,” listed in the 2005 and older section.
4. You can watch a lecture he did in England entitled “Preach to Change Them In Their Seats”.
5. Finally, his preaching notes from a D.Min. seminar “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” are great (link). Read the whole thing, but, as pertains to your question, check out the five “Apply Christ” sections.
Blessings on you and your ministry, brother.