By Brian Blackwell, Marketing Director
PINEVILLE – Michael Duduit believes application is not just an element of preaching.
He believes it is at the heart of the preaching task.
“To be clear, when I speak about application, I mean a discussion of how a particular biblical text connects with real-life issues faced by our listeners,” Duduit told pastors attending the recent E4 preaching conference at First Baptist Pineville. “It drives biblical truth into the avenues of our lives, with a focus not on information but on transformation.
“Like an archer with his arrows, application in preaching faithfully takes the biblical text and shoots for a target [and] that target might be repentance, obedience, service, or some other biblical challenge,” Duduit continued. “Anointed application has one goal: life change.”
Duduit – dean of the College of Christian studies at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C., and editor of Preaching magazine – discussed application in a series of three sermons during the E4 Conference, which is part of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Awaken effort, which calls for revival throughout the state.
In addition to Duduit’s sermons, the conference featured a sermon by Rick Byargeon, pastor of Temple Baptist in Ruston, and breakout sessions on such topics as using multimedia in preaching, proven principles for radical renewal in the church and developing a culture for evangelism and revival in one’s church.
Citing the Mosaic law, helping others understand how to live obediently to God’s purpose and direction, the Proverbs’ guidance for providing wise living, and the Sermon on the Mount’s practical counsel from Christ, applications are illustrative, with each story having a practical dimension, Duduit said.
Even though application is important, Duduit said some pastors fail to use it adequately in their sermons.
He said he believes reasons could be:
n Application is hard work. “Solid application is one of the hardest things for a preacher to do – and sometimes we just tip our hat to it instead of grabbing a shovel and digging deep,” he said.
n Preachers do not want to offend those listening to the sermon.
“The more specific the illustration, the more likely it is to offend someone, because application is the point at which scripture hits us where it hurts,” he said.
n Pastors misunderstand the nature and purpose of preaching.
“If the purpose of scripture is life transformation, and the New Testament models of preaching emphasize life transformation, then where did we get the mistaken assumption that biblical preaching should be anything short of aiming for life transformation?” he asked.
n Preachers don’t know how to use application.
“If we recognize the sermon as the application of a biblical principle using a biblical text, in order to understand how God intends to apply this truth to our lives, then we must place a greater focus on the task of application,” he said. “If it is central to the purpose of the Bible, then it should be central in our proclamation of the Bible.”
In his second talk, Duduit said an effective sermon should have a number of elements. Those include an illustration that engages interest and imagination of listeners, a key concept, a carefully-developed biblical content that recognizes the preacher’s authority comes from the inherent authority that resides in the Bible, relevant and appropriate illustrations and a strong conclusion.
“But at the heart of all of this process is the purpose of it all: What does God want us to do as a result of hearing His Word proclaimed? That involves applying it to their lives,” Duduit said. “Sermons have the feel of relevance when we help people see what this biblical truth would look like when it is put to practice in everyday life.”
In his final talk, Duduit discussed crafting a life-purpose sermon. He said such a sermon has several characteristics.
n The central idea is stated in the form of a life purpose or application. A life-purpose statement should include a short, declarative sentence, contain a subject and verb, be in present or future tense and use simple, everyday language, Duduit said.
n The major points of the sermon are stated in the form of application.
“People have too much in their minds and on their plates these days,” Duduit said. “If sermons don’t connect to the lives of people quickly, they’ll begin mentally updating Monday’s to-do list or thinking about that afternoon’s NFL game. Nothing grabs the attention of a person like showing them God’s Word has something personal and direct and urgent to say about his or her life.”
n The life purpose sermon balances the biblical and contemporary worlds.
“Particularly for less biblically-literate listeners, the sermon will have a better opportunity to grab their attention and engage their interest if it begins in the world with which they are familiar,” he said. “Once engaged, they can be moved to the biblical world with a sense of understanding and purpose.”
During his sermon on the Louisiana College campus, Byargeon reminded the students about the danger of drifting away from God.
Citing Philemon 1:24, Colossians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 4:10, Byargeon made the case for how the biblical character Demas drifted. In Philemon 1:24, Demas was mentioned as a fellow worker of Paul. But by 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul said that Demas had left him, Byargeon said.
To that end, Byargeon said turning away from God begins with a slow drift and ends in a sudden departure. He challenged the students not to let that happen to them.
“You can’t drift and walk with the Lord at the same time,” Byargeon said.
At the end of the conference, Stewart Holloway, pastor of First Baptist Pineville, announced that next year’s E4 conference is to be moved from the traditional Monday-Tuesday format to a Friday-Saturday event, Sept. 13 to 14. David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Orlando and former pastor of First West Monroe, is to be the guest speaker.