The second prerequisite to effective preaching to non-Christians is that we like them. If we don't, it's going to bleed through our preaching. Listen closely to sermons on the radio or television, and often you'll hear remarks about "those worldly secular people." Unintentionally, these speakers distance themselves from the non-Christian listener; it's us against them. I find myself wondering whether these preachers are convinced that lost people matter to God. It's not a merciful, "Let's tell them we love them," but a ticked off "They're going to get what's coming to them." These preachers forfeit their opportunity to speak to non-Christians because the unchurched person immediately senses, They don't like me.
Creative Topics and Titles
Unchurched people today are the ultimate consumers. We may not like it, but for every sermon we preach, they're asking, Am I interested in that subject? If they aren't, it doesn't matter how effective our delivery is; their minds will check out.
When the book Real Men Don't Eat Quiche came out, sales immediately took off. Everyone was talking about it. As I was thinking about the amazing success of that book, I decided to preach a series, "What Makes a Man a Man? What Makes a Woman a Woman?" Unchurched people heard the titles, and they came; attendance climbed 20 percent in just four weeks.
Unchurched people don't give the Bible a fraction of the weight we believers do. They look at it as an occasionally useful collection of helpful suggestions, something like the Farmer's Almanac. They tend to think, The Bible has some neat things to say once in awhile, but it's not the kind of thing I'm going to change my life radically to obey.
If we simply quote the Bible and say, "That settles it. Now obey that," they're going to say, "What? I'm supposed to rebuild my life on some book that's thousands of years old? I don't do that for any other respected literary work of antiquity." It just doesn't make sense to them.
So almost every time I preach, I'm trying to build up the reliability of Scripture and increase their respect for it. I do that by explaining the wisdom of God behind it. When you show them how reasonable God is, that captivates the secular mind.
Most secular folks have written off Christians as people who believe in floods and angels and strange miracles. My goal is to explain, in a reasonably intelligent fashion, some matters that touch their lives. I hope when they leave they'll say, "Maybe there is something to the Bible and to the Christian life."
Consider, the verse that instructs us, "Don't be unequally yoked." Some teachers speaking on that passage will say, "The implications are obvious: Don't marry a nonbeliever. The Bible says it, and we need to obey it." For the already convinced person, who puts great value on the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, that might be enough. I don't think most church people buy it as much as we hope they will, but let's say they give us the indication that they do.