Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: This article talks about how the sermon can be a spiritual tool that can move individuals from being unbelievers to followers of Christ.
While conducting a stewardship education program in a major city church, a local pastor told me that he had not preached a stewardship sermon in the past two years of his ministry. His reason for not preaching on the subject related to a perceived “conflict of interest” in the minds of some church members. Some members believed the reason why pastors preached on stewardship was because they were paid from tithe funds. If this was the only reason why pastors preached and taught on the subject of stewardship, then I would be concerned myself. However, I know that stewardship is more than tithes and offerings.
Stewardship is an all inclusive response from the believer’s heart for all that God has done through His Son, Jesus Christ. Stewardship is about the Lordship of Jesus in all areas of our lives as stewards and disciples, and this is why it is imperative for ministers to preach on this subject on a regular basis.
The sermon as a spiritual tool
In stewardship education, the sermon is a tool for communicating spiritual values and biblical themes to followers of Christ. The potential and capacity of a sermon to influence people’s worldview and core beliefs, for example, are inherent in its very nature as a communication instrument.
However, the sermon is no ordinary means for communicating information. This medium allows for God to speak directly or indirectly to listeners and readers on the basis of His Word as articulated by the speaker or writer. This is an untapped power of influence that pastors and lay leaders could use to a great effect in promoting stewardship as a Christian lifestyle.
Through the sermon, church members are reminded of their spiritual responsibilities to God as Creator and Owner of the universe. Through the sermon, believers are placed in an open field of Biblical learning to explore and experience the freshness of God’s love in new ways. Through the sermon, God reaches out and touches human hearts in a personal manner. Through the sermon, seekers of truth are affirmed and encouraged in their encounter with God. Through the sermon, followers of Jesus are inspired and challenged to respond to Him in new ways of service and at new levels of sacrifice.
The sermon moves listeners into doers
Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 has many components of a sermon that are worth noting, particularly its effect on people. The first notable factor is the presence of God in the context and process of the sermon delivery.
The second important factor as demonstrated in this sermon was Peter’s constant focus and reference to Jesus. This was his subject and purpose for preaching. “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs” Acts 2:22 (NIV). “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” Acts 2:32 (NIV). "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” Acts 2:36 (NIV).
In the sermon, Jesus must be presented to the listening and reading audience as the Incarnate of God and the only answer to our human questioning.
A third significant factor in Peter’s preaching is the fact that his sermon was a testimony of his life experience with the Living Christ (Acts 2:32). A powerful sermon, therefore, is one where the preacher or writer is telling his or her own story of personal encounter and victory in Jesus.
The fourth factor and one that is a fundamental of any sermon is the recognition that this medium of communication has to do with the exposition of the Word of God—the Bible. The sermon is a God given opportunity to open up the riches of His treasures in scriptures to those who are willing to learn and accept His offer of grace.
It is a spiritual tool that can move individuals from being unbelievers to followers of Christ. In this event, for example, not only were people’s hearts convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 37), but three thousand of them made a life changing decision to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. They were baptized and became members of the church (Acts 2:41). This kind of impact and result can only happen when the Bible is preached and Jesus is lifted up.