How to Instantly Upgrade Your Sermon Application (Use this tool!)

preaching Jan 29, 2024

Whenever you preach a sermon, you want people to respond to what God is telling them. You want them to take a step in their walk with God.

When you labor in prayer over the week in preparation, you ask God to work in the hearts of those who will hear the message. You want them to:

  • Believe
  • Repent
  • Hope
  • Commit
  • Change

And that’s why you don’t just preach the truth. You preach with application in mind. Because a sermon begs a response.

In this article, I want to show you a tool that will help you instantly upgrade your sermon application.

How to Instantly Upgrade Your Sermon Application: The Sermon Application Funnel

Let’s break down the Sermon Application Funnel and see how it upgrades your sermon’s application.

We’ll start conceptual and then I’ll show you a quick example of how this could work in a message.

Textual

Make no mistake: your sermon’s application must be rooted in the text. The application of the sermon must be the application of the text.

Your exegesis must lead to textual application. What do I mean?

Textual application is “because the text says this, this is what God expects of us.” 

It’s the most obvious step of them all — the Bible says this so we must respond in this way.

And this is where many sermons go (which is good and right) but I believe the best sermon applications take it even deeper.

Communal

Too often, sermon application focuses only on the individual. But the church is a people, not merely a person. The church is a body, not merely an arm.

So if you want to make your sermon application even better, make it communal. 

This is an opportunity to cast vision and show your people what it could mean if you all applied this text in your lives together. 

You could point out how this would change the church family. You could point out how different things would be if you all played your part in this (whatever ‘this’ is). You could point out the impact this would make in people’s homes and their spheres of influence.

Biographical

The biographical level in the funnel is an opportunity to either voice your own struggles and triumphs in your own application of the text or point to someone else’s story of applying the text.

The biographical level puts flesh on the applicational bones of the message.

You could be preaching about the freedom that comes from following Jesus no matter the struggles people are facing. You point to a friend of yours who was struggling with deep-seated anger and how, little-by-little, Jesus began to soften their heart as your friend took steps of surrender and faith.

You could share about your own journey in applying the text and how God has shown up time and time again.

Transformational

Here is where we want to get to in every sermon. We preach for transformation. Nothing less. 

This is where you drive the application home and call people to respond. 

This could happen through asking pointed questions: 

  • Are you done living life alone? Have you realized how empty it is?
  • Are you ready to stop depending on yourself and let some people come around you and be there for you?
  • Are you willing to let go of the bitterness you’re holding on to so that you can grab hold of freedom?

Transformational application could include invitations:

  • The Father’s arms are open wide. He’s been waiting on you to turn to Him. 
  • Jesus has saved you a seat at the table. You’re invited into His presence. You just need to draw near to Him.
  • You don’t have to live in fear anymore. Trust your King. He’s got you.

Transformational application could include concern:

  • I know that you’re sometimes worried about the future. But for some of you, that worry is wrecking you. Friend, you may not know what the future holds, but you know who holds the future.
  • For some of you, you’ve taken some hits in your life. And I’m sorry about that. But please, don’t let that be the reason you give up on living life in community. 
  • God completely cares for you. Will you let Him care for you or are you going to keep trying to do it all on your own? For your sake and for the sake of those around you… let Him care for you.

And one of the most helpful things you can do while you’re at this level of application is to consider what people might be thinking in the moment and say those thoughts out loud.

Address their potential:

  • Objections
  • Barriers
  • Experiences that might make it harder for them to take the steps the text is beckoning them to take
  • Narratives they might live by that make it hard for them to believe hope in this area is possible

A Quick Example

The text: Matthew 5:13-14

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Sermon Application Funnel

  • Textual: As a Christ follower, you’re called to make things better and do good in the world. And when you do good, more people will come to know your King. 
  • Communal: Our community is facing these three challenges: Challenge 1, Challenge 2, Challenge 3. What if we could make a difference in these areas? What if God is calling us to be a part of the solution to these challenges in our community? Are you willing to be a part of this?
  • Biographical: Another church in a different town was facing similar challenges in their community and this is what they did. And God did amazing things through their faithfulness.
  • Transformational: I know you might think that you’re not equipped enough (objection) or that it seems too daunting (barrier), but I believe that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Wouldn’t you want this challenge to be fixed? Don’t you believe that God wants to see this changed in our community? Here’s how you can get involved (invitation)… 

Your next sermon...

How can you use the sermon application funnel to upgrade your next sermon's application?

Grow Your Preaching

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