Someone once said that if you preach as to hurting people you will never lack an audience. Yesterday I preached on "Dealing with Grief," and found those words to be true. Numerous people came after both services telling me about grief issues they were currently addressing. Last night at our Bible study we discussed the morning message, and several more shared their stories.
The message itself was intended to be very practical. After sharing how grief follows the loss of anything significant in our lives, I pointed out some events that people often do not associate with grief. I went through the five stages of grief and talked about some of the wrong ways people sometimes respond to grief. I also shared some of the steps we can take to properly address grief and emphasized the need we have to be gracious towards ourselves and to others who might be grieving.
One well-known pastor once spoke against preaching to people's felt needs, but I do not agree. As I read the account of Jesus' ministry I find Him responding to the needs of people throughout His ministry. He healed the blind, the leper, and the lame. At one point He asked one man what he wanted Him to do for him. He met people where they were.
Certainly, there were times when Jesus refused to merely address the felt needs of an individual. When the woman at the well asked about water Jesus offered her living water. When the crowds asked for bread He offered them living bread. In both cases He understood that their true need was much greater than their felt need, and He offered to meet that true need.
Pastors are called up to do both as well. While we present a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the means to meet the deepest need in a person's life, we also must address the felt needs of people.
Studies continually point out that people desire preaching that addresses real issues. This doesn't mean that people want their ears tickled. They want to know that Christianity speaks to real life. So many have rejected the Christian faith and the church because they believe they are irrelevant to the real world. Part of our role as ministers is to demonstrate through our preaching and ministries that Christianity is relevant to 21st century needs.
Jesus said that He came to bring us life and life more abundantly. Not only does He bring us the opportunity to enjoy eternal life with Him, He also desires to minister to our current needs. Our preaching should reflect this.