An Application Disaster Class

 *Warning: this article may be laced with a heavy dose of sarcasm*

Welcome to my Disaster Class in the ‘art’ of preaching blunt sermons! Having been a regular practioner of pointless sermons, I am thoroughly qualified to coach those less initiated in these matters. Follow these steps and I personally guarantee you, your sermon application will at least be bad, if not be a total bust!   Bear in mind, too, that there are no less, or more, than seven points. Do I even need to say that you can trust this as the final word on the subject?


1. Intepret the text wrong. This is a great place to start! As everyone knows, faithful application of the passage begins with faithful interpretation.¹ But this ‘study thing’ is a whole lot of work! So grab a latte, Preacher; close those headache-inducing commentaries. Stop sweating about those passages and what they mean! I reckon that 7 times out of 10, you’ll get the meaning of the passage right anyway with only a quick skim.

2. Ignore application or minimise it. The best bit about this one is that we can sound spiritual while doing less work! Assume then that the Spirit will do the application ‘for’ you. (Doesn’t the Spirit apply God’s Word to the human heart?²). If you must include application, why not consign it to being ‘tagged on at the end.’ Whatever you do, don’t see the whole message as a word from God to save, sanctify and equip people to serve! (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

3. Springboard quickly from the text to whatever you want to speak about. Is the subject prayer? Great! Leap off into a rant about whatever aspect of the church’s prayer life is bothering you at the moment!  Ignore what this specific text is saying about prayer. That way, your thoughts on prayer will be heard, not the Bible’s.

4. Be general, vague and samey in your sermon applications. Don’t allow the text to push you towards areas of application that are fresh or helpful. Especially stay away from applications that the church may not want to hear (hint: subjects like money, use of the tongue, anything to do with the heart). Keep the applications in a general territory! ‘Read your Bible’, ‘pray every day’ and ‘evangelise more’ are the basic touch points here. Or my personal favourite: just finish with the line… ‘Go and do likewise, Amen!’

5. Think that application always equals doing. You should always be able to tell people what to do, and how to do at. As prescriptively as possible! Let’s ignore that the New Testament itself is not always prescriptive in the how of application. And let’s conveniently forget that application involves our thoughts and desires, as well as our actions.

6. Let’s only apply in ways that suit our temperament. Are we the gentler, comforting type? Then tame those texts that seem a bit too challenging! Apologise to the congregation that the Bible might be a bit “heavy” or “strong” this morning. Are we an in-your-face, prophetic type? Are we never more happy than when wagging a finger? Then let’s find ways of turning even the most comforting texts into a “challenge.” Even Psalm 23 can be used to crush those wayward sheep (if we ignore its entire tone, content and purpose)!

7. Apply without any reference to Jesus. This is the most important point, if we want to completely undermine a sermon’s usefulness! Leave Jesus out when we apply the message, and people will be wondering whether they just sat through a Christian message at all! In addition, people will feel discouraged and overwhelmed. Having been dispirited in their failure to apply God’s word, they will have no gospel-comfort to lift them from despondency! Added into the bargain, they won’t know the encouragement and power that the gospel brings to our obedience. All in all, if you fail to do recommendations 1 to 6, just do 7 and you’ll render your sermon completely ineffective.

Yours truly,

The Pointless Preacher


¹ Though hopefully what you say will still be ‘biblically’ true – in a wider sense. 

² The Spirit, of course, applies God’s Word, but this didn’t stop New Testament preachers to calling for repentance, faith and obedience to specific commands.

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