"Have to" or "Want to" Sermons?
Visionary preaching taps into people's innate longings.

As men and women created in the image of God, believers are designed to become like Christ in ever-increasing measure. Effective, biblical preaching taps into this innate longing by helping people envision what God created us to be in Christ. This is the definition of visionary preaching.

Visionary preaching is not content merely to instruct people in the ways of God, or to confront the sin in their lives and the world, or to exhort believers to do better and try harder. Visionary preaching empowers people to pursue God's better future by painting a vivid and compelling picture of that future with words, images, and stories.

Consider one of the pastor's most daunting but essential topics - tithing. Some preachers will explain the Old Testament foundations of tithing and offer some grace-based principles for giving drawn from the New Testament. They assume that once people understand God's expectations they will conscientiously adjust their giving habits. Other preachers will take a more prophetic stance by summoning the words and spirit of Malachi to confront the materialism of our culture and warn believers not to "rob God."

But both of these approaches, the informative and the prophetic, fail to understand how people grow.

Willow Creek's popular REVEAL survey provides us with insights into how and why people grow spiritually. Those identified as "spiritually stalled" in the survey overwhelmingly said the reason was their failure to make spiritual growth a priority in their lives. In other words, the problem isn't that they don't know how to grow, but that they simply don't want to grow. It is not important enough to be a priority.

Click here to finish this article at Leadershipjournal.net.

September 03, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 11 comments

Ephrem Hagos

September 06, 2008  5:10am

Only with the selected seed of firsthand knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a major Christian omission, is sustainable spiritual growth with fruits possible. For verification, see John 19: 30-37 in direct application of the Parable of the Growing Seed in Mark 4: 26-29.

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September 04, 2008  10:43pm

I think Pastor Wilkerson may have understated the "prophetic" approach. Did not Malachi give a vision of the possibilities of what could happen if the people gave ? That God would pour out such a blessing that wouldn't be room enough to receive it? I like the concept of visionary preaching and I think the Malachi example shows it can also be expository.

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September 04, 2008  8:56am

Thank you, Mr Bufford for bringing up the topic of expository preaching. I finished Bible College only a few years back, and one of our teachers asked the question in class "who here wishes that they heard more expository preaching at your church and less preaching on topics?". Hands all around the room began to fly up, and students shared numerous stories of being nervous for churches they loved, sometimes not even opening a bible on a Sunday morning. What would be even more interesting to note, is this Bible College had over 30 denominations represented, and over 15 in that class alone. I would submit this problem is all across the board. As a young adult, thank you to those pastors who are preaching through the word. Young people want to hear it more than you might know...

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Kip Keith

September 03, 2008  4:53pm

Thank you, Pastor Bufford. I love expository preaching as well - I'm currently preaching through Colossians and I've found that I don't have to worry about what to preach next week - the passage dictates. Plus, if someone doesn't like what I say, I can just blame it on the text :)

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Todd Burus

September 03, 2008  2:12pm

So, who would you cite as an example of "visionary preaching"? To me these days a visionary preacher is someone who has their vision square on God's Word. Try Al Mohler's new book on expository preaching, I think he has a clearer vision of what preaching should be than anybody else out there today.

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The Walk

September 03, 2008  2:09pm

Thank you for this article. When people preach "have to" or "ought to" messages it has a tendency to lead to guilt, frustration, and discouragement. Visionary messages remind people of who they are in Christ, what we are as His hands and feet, and what we can accomplish by working together and pooling our resources. I think Pastor Kip was rightly disturbed by people's all-too-common apathy about growing in Christ. I think that when we present Christ for who He truly is, seizing opportunities to remind people of the reality of God–His love, and grace, and holiness–it inspires people to want to grow closer to Him. People are bombarded constantly with false messages about God being cruel and aloof (like a dead-beat dad). But the more we know about who He truly is, the more we desire to grow in relationship with Him. Visionary messages also help with this. Everyone wants to change the world. Everyone wants to feel like they matter, like they belong. But it is Christ who gives us our purpose, and who breathes meaning into all that we do. Just my 2 cents.

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M.K. Bufford

September 03, 2008  1:32pm

As I read the blog one question came to mind as the discussion centered on what kind of sermon should be preached. The one type of sermon not mentioned was expository, what ever happened to expository preaching? I learned expository preaching many years ago in Bible College; I find it an effective way to preach, to teach, to instruct, to give vision, to correct, to warn and to encourage. You see the Biblical text tells me what to preach and how to preach it. This is the beauty of the expository method. The last year and a half I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark and this coming Sunday I will start on chapter 12. Not only has preaching through Mark's Gospel changed my life, but it has changed the lives of those who hear my preaching. Perhaps the church could use a return to this method One more observation about church life we Pastors preach what people should, but when someone response to the grace of God and wants to do something we don't what to do, or what to tell them. Maybe we should be more secure in our position in Christ and less worried about our position as Pastor. Rev. M. K. Bufford Followingjesusministries@earthlink.net

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Pastor Kip

September 03, 2008  10:10am

I'm concerned about the apathy towards growing in Christ. I see it every day in the ministry, and the question becomes, how do you foster the desire? Someone once said that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink - unless you put salt in his oats. How do we salt the congregation's oats?

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C.K. Tygrett

September 03, 2008  9:59am

I'm actually getting ready for a series of talks on this very subject (tithing) and the idea that I'm going with is that in every situation in the narrative of Scripture God is always giving first and most. I don't think that's the thought we go into the subject of giving with. I also think the restriction of giving to "tithing" is fair given the plethora of different offerings that the OT talks about. I like to think of preaching as Brueggemann does, a "poetic articulation of an alternative reality", which seems to fit with the visionary preaching that we read about in this article. so, what is the alternative reality of giving in the church today? I'm going to try to answer that, but I'd love to hear your (plural) thoughts. grace and peace

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September 03, 2008  9:45am

Wonderful post. I know that I do a much better job when I want to preach on a topic. "Have to" I find is much more difficult. Thank you for bring this topic up. I hope you have a great week.

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