As pastors and preachers prepare their weekly sermons, it is easy to get so focused on the “What?” question—as in, “What am I going to say?”—that they fail to consider the “Why?” question: “Why am I preaching this sermon? What is its purpose or desired end?” And while many pastors may consider this question as they go, I believe it can be helpful to stop and consider the intended purpose of any given sermon. Though the following list is not exhaustive, at least 6 distinctive purposes for preaching can be identified.
Purposes for Preaching
- Evangelistic Purpose
The objective is to clearly communicate the gospel to those who do not know or have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior (ex. Peter’s Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2).
- Exhortative Purpose
The need for believers to grow in their devotion and love for the Lord is the focus.
- Doctrinal/Theological Purpose
Here the goal is growth in the knowledge of God and His truth (This is a much neglected aspect of preaching in our day and one that needs to be recovered.)
- Ethical Purpose
This type of sermon focuses on the need of the audience to grow in various relationships (personal and social primarily).
- Consecrative Purpose
Here the focus is on the need of the audience to grow in its commitment and service to God.
- Supportive (Encouragement) Purpose
This purpose focuses on the need of the audience for support and strength.
Developing the Purpose of a Sermon
In developing the purpose of a message, several considerations should come into play:
- Determine the purpose of the biblical text.
You should honor the biblical writer’s purpose.
- Determine the audience to whom you will preach the sermon.
You must know your audience. What is going on with your people? The same sermon preached in your pulpit could have a different purpose when preached in a revival or biblical conference.
- Decide which of the six purposes is appropriate for your message on this particular occasion.
This will influence the “thrust” of your message.
- State the purpose statement in clear, concise, and concrete language.
While any given sermon may have more than one of these purposes, carefully thinking through the “Why?” will help pastors and teachers more clearly and consistently communicate the truth of God’s Word in such a way that connects with the congregation.