Preachers tend to think about exegesis, appropriately relating the text to Christ, contextualization, and so on. This is all so very important. But most of your listeners don’t look for these elements; instead, they have much more simple and practical things on their minds.
As a preacher, your aim is to please God and God alone. But that doesn’t mean it is entirely unhelpful to consider what questions your audience may have when they listen to you preach. This is especially true for new preachers or when you’re preaching to an audience for the first time. Considering what questions your hearers will have will help you to better connect with them.
Much has been written about questions to consider when preparing a sermon, but I’ve seen little about which questions your listeners will have when they hear you preach. Preachers tend to think about exegesis, appropriately relating the text to Christ, contextualization, and so on. This is all so very important. But most of your listeners don’t look for these elements; instead, they have much more simple and practical things on their minds.
Having preached and listened to many sermons myself, below you will find a few questions that I think may enter the minds of your hearers. This list, like most lists, is not exhaustive. And they are primarily (but not exclusively) intended for new preachers or those preaching to a new audience.
1. Can I trust you?
The biggest thing people want to know when they hear you preach is whether or not they can trust you, whether you are a sincere person, or whether you are trying to act like somebody you’re not. Yes, homiletical competency is extremely important, but people can overlook a little bit of weakness in preaching skills for a godly, genuine preacher. On the contrary, no amount of speaking ability can make up for a lack of trust.
No doubt, some are wolves and won’t trust you no matter what. They not only want you to fall but actively try to consider how they can take part in it. But for a genuine believer who desires to grow in godliness, trustworthiness ranks among the top of the traits they look for in a preacher.
Is this person genuine? Can I trust them? Do I get a sense that he cares for me? That’s what your listeners will ask.
2. Why should I listen to you?
By this, I don’t mean flexing all of your theological credentials or resume experience. Instead, I mean letting people know why what you’re about to say matters to them.
Sermon introductions and opening remarks in a sermon are crucial. Don’t squander it. While you want to avoid gimmicks, it is not a bad idea to consider how you can quickly capture the attention of your audience. This is less important if you have built-in relational capital with your hearers, but it still can be helpful nevertheless. People often ask, “What’s in it for me?” They shouldn’t. But they do. Let them know why what you’re about to say matters.