Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part article. The second part, “Giving an invitation,” will be published tomorrow.
Ministry to the next generation has never been more important. Those who minister to the next generation are at the front lines of some of the most strategic ministry in the world. As part of my role serving as Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) campus minister at the University of Arkansas, I have the privilege of preaching to college students every week and traveling to different churches and student ministries to preach across the state. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned and a few encouragements to those who preach to the next generation.
The next generation is desperate for someone to cut through the noise of countless ideologies, worldviews, and opinions that surround them with applicable truth. You can preach with boldness because the truths you preach are founded in Scripture. Bold preaching is overtly and unapologetically Biblical. When a preacher lets the text of Scripture form their sermons, boldness comes from the content of their message more than their own self-confidence. Bold preaching is not weakened by a fear of offending people and utilizes the passions of the preacher to emphasize the Scripture. Be bold in calling students to trust and live for Jesus.
Every sermon is delivered to an audience. Relevance in preaching considers the audience and caters the message toward them. Peter’s preaching in Acts 2 to an audience conversant with Scriptures differed from Paul’s preaching to a pagan culture in Acts 17. Being relevant in your preaching means you should preach in the language of the people and to the needs of the people. Do not preach over the heads of your audience, but also do not dumb things down. Students are learning trigonometry in class and watching their peers defend transgenderism via Tik-Toks, you can preach theology to them. When preaching to the next generation, be willing to address the relevant topics of the day. A relevant preacher is willing to scripturally answer the questions that their audience is asking.
While preachers should strive for relevance, they should never forsake being themselves. God has wired you different than any other preacher He has ever called. Discover who God has created and called you to be, develop your gifts and abilities and deploy all in faithfulness to God. Don’t belittle God by trying to be someone else when you preach. The next generation sees through you trying to be something that you are not.
The call of God on a person’s life is an invitation to follow Him to salvation, to a deeper relationship with him, to church membership, or to vocational ministry. Because I believe that God is always calling people, I am willing to boldly give invitations for the next generation to respond to Him. Sometimes invitations are given a bad reputation because they have been misused, they are manipulative, or preachers are just flat-out bad at giving them. Therefore, I want to encourage you. In your preaching don’t misuse, manipulate, or give bad invitations.
Here are a few principles I use in giving invitations: be clear, be concise, be confident, and be compelling. I never want it to be said about my preaching that a person did not respond to God because they did not know how.