The ‘Ask’ in Your Sermon

Application is a strong part of every sermon. In fact, a sermon without application is merely an informative talk. You may be interesting, but there’s no point to it.

Along the way, you should be offering application as the text or topic leads you. Some sermons can have multiple applications, while others have only one clear one. There is a slight art to application, though, and that’s the art of the “ask.”

How do you make sure your sermon has an ask each week? It begins by being clear on your main idea. If your sermon is just a string of different topics or has too many detours, you can’t get very specific about what you want people to do. So, at some point in your sermon prep, make sure you are clear about the ask.

Three Areas of Focus

There are three areas of focus many sermon applications fit into: the time, talent and treasure your congregation is willing to give.

1. Time. Of the three, this may be the easiest ask. The only thing it takes is an investment of the resource we all share: time. How we spend our time, though, reveals a lot about our hearts.

Ask your people to honor God with their time. This could mean setting aside a few minutes each day for devotions. It could also mean attending something, such as a weekend service, midweek ministry, Sunday School class, small group, newcomers’ function, or discipleship class.

Giving time isn’t always easy. It involves a shift in priorities. Your people have routines and lead busy lives. Doing something different with their time requires intentionally breaking those routines. It helps them evaluate their priorities in light of God’s priorities. It may also lead to other positive responses to asks.

2. Talent. We have all been given certain gifts to help the church. Each member of your congregation has some talent he or she can give, whether in ministry on the weekend or as a mission on Monday. Go ahead and ask them!

A sermon without application is merely an informative talk.

One of the complaints I often hear from pastors is that they never have enough volunteers. But I also wonder how often they ask people to do something. I’ve learned in the ministries I’ve led that people love to be asked, whether it’s to join a ministry or to take a leadership role.

When you tell people you see something special in them and believe their gifts could benefit the church, you will get their attention.

In your message, take time to explain the needs of your ministry, and then ask people to join. Be ready to pair volunteers with team leaders right away. Strike while the iron is hot. Don’t let the moment slip by and give people time to talk themselves out of serving.

3. Treasure. For most pastors, this is the most difficult ask. The majority of pastors I talk with are uncomfortable discussing money. They don’t want to be pushy, stir up controversy, or come across as nosy.

I understand all those concerns. But I also understand the reality of ministry. It takes resources. And Jesus established a Church that runs on the contributions of its people. In fact, asking your church to give is part of the discipleship process.

When you ask people to give, make sure you don’t beg. Steer clear of telling the church the finances are in a dire spot. Instead, highlight how the church has been financially responsible and what God is doing through the various ministries.

Talk about the benefits of giving — not just in how it helps the church, but in how it helps them. God loves a cheerful giver, so encourage them to give with the right attitude and trust Him to honor their giving. God will not only provide for their needs, but He will also grow them spiritually as they practice generosity.

Ask your congregation, and anticipate that they will respond. When they see your sincerity and enthusiasm, they will be attracted to the task. Rather than feeling obligated, they will want to take up the responsibility.

There are plenty of ways to wrap up your sermon and finish strong. Recapping your main ideas is a great way to do it right. You could also tell a compelling story or a gripping illustration.

But what do you really want to leave your congregation with? Think about the one thing you want people to do, and then end each message asking them to respond. Asking will encourage them step out of their comfort zones and take a step of faith.

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