Audience-Centered Preaching

I’ve been re-reading Tom Holland’s book, “Sermon Design & Delivery,” and something caught my attention once again. Bro. Holland stresses that, for the local preacher, sermons must be biblical, but they absolutely must be audience-centered. He mentions Paul’s sermon to Felix (Acts 26:24-25). It struck me just how audience-centered this sermon was. Here was a political figure, quite possibly an idolatrous, immoral, intemperate person. So, what does Paul preach? He hits him right between the eyes with righteousness, temperance, and he warns of coming judgment (v. 25). Talk about a sermon Felix needed to hear! Paul wasn’t harsh or unloving, but he preached what this man needed to hear “without fear or favor.” On Mars Hill (Acts 17), what did Paul talk about? He preached about the “unknown god,” a sermon that would really get their attention and which they really needed. In Acts 2, Peter could have preached about the one God and received some hearty “Amens!” from the crowd, but he instead preached about Jesus, declaring, “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). Talk about a sermon they needed to hear!

Whether we are preachers or Christians seeking to obey Mark 16:15, we need to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2), but we also need to make sure, when possible, we are preaching and teaching audience-centered material. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, another audience-centered message of Paul’s).