Any reasonable pastor should have some kind of idea about the kind of audience he’s preaching to. This is not some mystery. Yet, I think I need to write this blog post to remind my fellow preachers of the importance of this task.
Someone once remarked that the pulpit was built for the listener and not the listener for the pulpit. Whether we agree or not, that’s reality. I heard recently from a young person that complains about the preaching of his pastor. The problem was not the content; the problem was delivery. The generational gap is too large.
Some of the factors we need to consider are as follows.
We should consider the age of the audience. Older audiences come from a different era. Some of them can relate to stories about the Korean War or even World War II, but the younger audience might expect other things. Age is important. While the older audience is used to a modernistic (aka linear) way of seeing reality, many younger people look at things differently. They may see truths as having many different aspects rather than something overly black and white. We need to keep in mind of both kinds of audiences.
We should also consider the gender. Women do not necessarily find men’s interest relevant. This is a tough nut to crack. For many men, sport stories are very interesting but it may not be for many women. These days, we have to be very sensitive about using gender-neutral language on the pulpit. Many women might feel offended if we use overly masculine pronouns. For many, this may not be an issue, but for some, it is. Since the gospel is for all people, we have to careful to use inclusive language and illustrations to enhance instead of hinder our message.
These are some of the ideas we must consider when surveying our preaching. Of course, if you’re a visiting speaker, you can never tell what the expectations are. Quite often, the delivery does not fit expectation and causes people to get upset, but that’s a blog post for another day.