There are usually standard parts to a sermon. Introduction, body, and conclusion is a popular way to think about a sermon’s form. Preaching the biblical text also has standard elements known as exposition, illustration, and application. Each of these parts are important for a sermon. I want to address the application element. Often I hear applications that focus on the hearer as individual – something he or she can do by themselves to practice. However, I want to encourage preachers to not only have individualistic but corporate applications in their sermons. In other words, give your hearers practical steps that can only be accomplished by being a part of the local church. Let me give you some reasons why corporate applications are needful:
1. It affirms our identity as a people of God than merely individuals who Jesus saves.
Corporate applications better interpret the portions of the New Testament where Americans, weaned from birth on hyper-individualism, often read the “you” in the biblical text as singular when, more often than not, it’s plural. In Texas, we make this corporate distinction by saying “y’all” instead of “you.” Giving corporate applications continually points your listeners back to the “y’all-ness” of God’s work in Christ. More than picking out individuals who need to zip to Heaven when they die, Christ comes to redeem a people unto himself for kingdom work until he returns to consummate that kingdom. Consistently giving corporate applications continually tutors your listeners into this corporate gospel identity.
2. It encourages congregants OF a local church to live and serve in community AS a local church.
When we only give applications that can be accomplished without interfacing with the community of faith we hamstring the truth that God saved us to live in covenant community with him and his people. However, preaching corporate applications encourages attenders that engaging in the local church as followers of Jesus isn’t something peripheral or optional, but essential and vital for their spiritual formation. It helps them see that attending a local church service isn’t the same thing as being part of a local church. Therefore, preach sermons that demand living in community as a local body of Christ.
3. It mirrors the same spirit of application in the New Testament.
When one sees how many “y’all” applications the New Testament puts before us, having corporate applications within your own sermons better reflects the biblical nature of application. This doesn’t mean no applications for the individual as individual exist in the text of Scripture. They do. But adding ways your congregants apply the message “in community” rounds out a more biblical approach to applying God’s Word. Frankly, we should have applications-as-community because the New Testament applies itself in the same fashion.
I once had a woman come up to me and say, “Yancey, I really like your preaching except for one thing.” When I asked as to what that one thing was she answered, “Your sermons consistently demand I be a part of Clear Creek Community Church. But I like hearing sermons I can apply just on my own. I like messages where I can do them by myself.” For her, a message wasn’t practical if it demanded engagement with the local church. I want to argue, that preaching sermons with applications that rarely, if ever, necessitate one’s involvement in God’s covenant community aren’t nearly practical enough.
When you preach this Sunday, be sure in your applications to include the y’all.