God Gave You a Specific Congregation. Preach to Them.

5 keys to effective, locally focused preaching.

On any given Sunday, you’ll likely hear immigration, poverty, race, or injustice mentioned in the sermon at our church—not because of the latest headlines but because of our commitment to connect Scripture with our congregants’ lives. As a church in a low-income and disadvantaged community in Austin, Texas, over 50 percent of our congregation is Latino, most are bilingual, and many are immigrants. These topics reflect their daily struggles.

When we preach from the Book of Ruth, for example, we specifically address Ruth’s immigration journey, her border crossings, her vulnerable status in a new land, and the socioeconomic and cultural dynamics of the story. When we preach from Genesis 16, we tell our people—some of whom have fled human trafficking—that, as with Hagar, God sees them, understands their pain, and cares for them, even when they feel utterly alone. And when we preach the story of David and Bathsheba, we do so with a sensitivity to the women in our church who’ve been abused or sexually assaulted, emphasizing that David’s misuse of power was a form of rape and that God will bring a reckoning for this kind of evil.

We do all of this because we are committed to local expositional preaching. As John Stott writes in Between Two Worlds, “Preaching is not exposition only but communication, not just the exegesis of a text but the conveying of a God-given message to living people who need to hear it.” It’s the preacher’s job to personalize and contextualize God’s Word to the listeners—to bring the people’s needs, cares, and questions to the text and consider how God’s Word is directly speaking to them.

Know Your Sheep

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