Whoops: Preaching to the Unchurched (1)

The reason I started this blog was to try and help pastors who truly want to reach people who are far from God, but may need a little help with that. This is about the only thing I do well, so someone suggested I share ideas. — Anyway, I recently read a sermon by someone who is a great guy and great preacher and who wants to reach the lost. Yet in this sermon he made, in my opinion, some critical mistakes that would keep him from connecting with the unchurched, and may well keep them from coming back to his church. I received his permission to share some examples. — So here’s the deal…

Read the following excerpt from his sermon and see if you can spot the “mistake.” Then I’ll share with you what I saw, and how I would correct it.

Today we’re going to read a story from the book of the Bible called Acts. After
Jesus leaves the scene, there’s an apostle of his named Paul who goes around to different cities in the first century starting churches. The part we’re reading today, in Acts chapter 17, is when Paul visits Athens, Greece.

So what’s the problem? … What in the world is an apostle? Most of the people this guy wants to reach either never knew what an apostle was, or they have long forgotten from their Sunday School past, which probably didn’t have that great of teaching anyway. The real problem is that by using a word like this without defining it, you are assuming that everyone knows what it means. The person who doesn’t know what it means will realize you’re making this assumption, and the assume that he’s not supposed to be there, because he doesn’t know what it means.

So what’s the solution? … Change the term, or define it. He could have said, “there’s a follower of Jesus named Paul…” or “there’s was a real mover and shaker early on in Christianity named Paul…” or “there’s a guy named Paul, who’s called an apostle, that means someone who is sent out by Jesus to do ministry…” With any of those options you’re still communicating the same thing, but you’re assuming nothing, and no one feels left out.