6. Settle for Irrelevant Relevance
I've found most people are very interested in hearing about themselves. I know I often am. If you want to preach a message that 'connects' all you have to do is make the people you are talking to the center of the text.
There are some obvious ways preachers do this, you know, throwing out the text and just addressing felt needs. There are other ways we can do this though, not so obvious. I remember when we started preaching through the gospel of Mark at Grace, at first it was a little bit difficult. I think one of the reasons it was difficult was because what the gospel of Mark does is shift the focus from us to Christ. He's completely preoccupied with Jesus. We are not the hero of the story Jesus is. In the epistles at least you've got a few, "You've got to do this" messages. But in the gospels, every story starts and ends with him. And that can be tough preaching,(great preaching because there's nothing better for a person who loves Jesus to think and talk about him, tough preaching only if you want people to think your messages are great) because the sad fact is many of us would rather spend a lot of time looking in the mirror then we would looking at someone else...even if that someone else is Jesus.
We sometimes excuse ourselves for focusing so much on ourselves, saying we want to be relevant. I've got to hit the people where they live. Yes, of course. But focusing on Jesus, understanding the gospel and the implications, calling on people to get their eyes off of themselves and onto Jesus is like the most relevant kind of preaching there is.
I'm kind of rambling here (it's a Monday morning after all) but I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes as we prepare we are trying so hard to preach a message that really hits home and is practical and relevant, that we focus so much on the people we are speaking to that we in attempting to become relevant actually become irrelevant. People say we are being relevant because our messages are 'practical' but people think Dr. Phil is relevant as well. That doesn't mean his message is honoring God and really helping people in an eternal way in the long run.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't be specific and we shouldn't be talking about how a text applies to contemporary listeners and all that, what I am saying is that even as we talk about practical matters and issues of life, and we've got to - check out 2 Timothy 3:14-17, this is one of the purposes of Scripture - but even as we do, and especially as we do, we have to remember who is the hero of the story, who is ultimately the focus of all of Scripture. It's as we connect Jesus and the gospel to real life, as we help people get their eyes off of themselves and to him, that we, no matter what people say - become really relevant.
I hope that makes sense, if it doesn't, I think I've linked to this before, but I've been challenged by the comments Tim Keller makes on just this to think more carefully about the way I preach practical, relevant messages.