by Loren Gjesdal

There are an estimated 380,000 churches in the United States. In the vast majority of these churches, the pulpit and the sermon take center stage (literally) in each week’s service. If each sermon were an average of just 30 minutes, that’s a whopping 190,000 hours of preaching in the United States each week!

Add mid-week services and the availability of all this preaching online, and it might be time to ask, what are we to do with all these messages? What is the point of all this preaching?

Is the point to teach the Word to God’s people? Or is it to teach God’s people the Word? These two questions may sound the same, but the subtle difference is which is the subject, and which is the object of the sentence. Is the preaching primarily about the Word or is it about the People? Maybe Paul can help answer the question:

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).”

The Gospel Message

The gospel message of Jesus crucified for sin might be foolish to some, but it is God’s wise plan to use the preacher to deliver the message. Paul focuses his attention not on the content of the message but on the result. The wisdom of God has been ordained to use the preacher’s messages to save people.

Preaching, then, isn’t as much about informing people as it is about transforming them. What’s the point of all this preaching? In a word, change.

If the transfer of information was all we were after, we could find an eloquent expert, record the presentation of the information, put it on YouTube, and direct everyone to download the information at their convenience.

But if we seek to transform people, to draw them out of darkness and into the light, to commission them into a life of missional impact, to see them conformed to the likeness of Jesus, then we are talking about a much different kind of work.

A Call to Action

We are talking about a personal work, an appeal to the heart as well as to the mind, a call to action that includes right motivation, an interactive process that requires observation, response, and accountability.

When we talk about preaching for transformation, we are talking about a relationship where the preacher knows the listener, and the listener knows the preacher. In this relationship the listener doesn’t just hear the message, she also sees it in the preacher’s life.

This gives the call to change credibility as well as a living example. In the context of an ongoing relationship, the preacher too can see whether the message needs to be repeated, re-focused, or advanced to the next step.

The word “pastor” is a word that means shepherd, and a primary tool for the shepherding work is the weekly sermon. Each message is leading the congregation, in partnership with the Word of God and the Spirit of God, individually and corporately, into transformation.

Clarity and Impact

How can a preacher prepare a transforming message? How can a listener receive such a message? By sincerely asking the question, “What’s the point?” or more bluntly, “So what?” The intent of the question isn’t to resist or belittle the message or the preacher, but to sincerely ask, “What is the one thing that should change about me as a result of hearing this message?” Is it an attitude, a perspective, or a behavior? What’s the takeaway, the application?

Imagine a whole church listening with the question “so what” in mind, and that same church hearing a message constructed specifically to answer that question. What would be the result? Clarity, for one, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, impact.


Each person would know what they needed to do. Each obedient listener would be led by the Word, Spirit, and message to change something about the way they think or act. They would be transformed in some way by the Word read, exposited, and applied:

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).”

So, preacher reading this article as you prepare your next message, what is the one thing you want your listeners to take away from your next message? What’s your answer to the listener’s question, “So what?”

Make sure the answer is clearly stated in your message, biblically supported, and vividly illustrated. That’s the point of your message. Make it memorable, applicable, and organize the entire message around it. As hard as it may be, delete the rest.

Thinking or Doing Differently

And church member, think about the last sermon you heard. What’s the one thing you left thinking or doing differently as a result of what you heard? If you can’t remember the point of the last message you heard, try this as you go to church this weekend—write on the back of your bulletin “So What?”

And before you leave the sanctuary write below those two words the one thing you know you should change based on what you just heard. Your answer might read differently than someone else’s and that’s ok. Your answer is what God’ Spirit drew from the preacher’s message just for you, and that personal application is the point of all the preaching in all the churches week after week.