A Woman’s Point of View
On any given Sunday the preacher stands before the congregation and delivers a sermon to a mixed audience of both males and females. In many congregations, females outnumber males. It is important that preachers understand the makeup of the congregation they are a part of. Who is the congregation? What is their background? What ethnicities are represented? What kind of different socio-economic levels will you find within the congregation? These questions along with the question of gender are important for the minister to consider. The message of the gospel never changes but how it is presented to various groups within society can change. The sermons presented within the book of Acts are sometimes quite different depending on whether or not it is a Jewish audience or a gentile audience. Knowing the congregation is of upmost importance.
Recently I have been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. Last Sunday my text was Matthew 5:27-32. Lust and divorce are not two subjects I look forward to preaching on, but I understand the need to preach on the whole counsel of God. It is not wise to commit to preaching the Sermon on the Mount and to skip over the passages which are difficult, unpopular, or present certain problems. A mature congregation will be willing to wrestle with the difficult passages of Scripture, just as a mature minister will not shy away from difficult texts.
As I was preparing to preach on the subject of lust I thought about my congregation. I thought about how over half the congregation is of the opposite gender. I thought about how men and women probably think quite differently about lust. Although I would only be preaching one sermon, I thought about how it might be heard in different ways.
How does one prepare to preach to people of a different gender, race, socio-economic level, etc.? Here are a few things we can do to help us understand the people sitting in the pews.
Empathy – Ministers need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of other individuals within the congregation. We need to be able to understand the needs, feelings, and struggles of our church members as much as humanly possible.
Friendship – Becoming friends with people who are different from us helps us to understand where they are coming from. It gives us a glimpse into different cultures and mindsets. Just because we were raised a certain way does not mean that was the right way. It is important for us to understand different perspectives and to be able to relate to people who come from different backgrounds.
Honesty – We need to admit that we will never fully understand what it is like to be another color, race, or gender. We can read about and wrestle with all the issues but we can never truly understand what it is like to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.
The things above are great things to do, but they are not always things one can do in a week’s time. Something a person can do with a limited amount of time is read authors who come from different backgrounds than your own. See how others understand and approach the text. You do not have to agree with everything they write, but hopefully this will give you an insight to how others think and view the passage you are preaching on.
As I was approaching my sermon on lust I sought out women authors who had written on the subject. As I began to read their writings I was amazed at how differently they approached the subject than I did. I was reminded that women who are victims of sexual abuse and sins are often blamed. In some countries it is not unusual to place all the blame on the victims of rape. Even in our country, sometimes people will say things like, “Did you see what she was wearing? She was asking for it.” In sermons on lust, it is easy to get off topic and turn it into a lesson on modesty. Certainly, modesty is an important issue that needs to be addressed, but lust and modesty are two separate issues. In Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus never says anything about what the woman is or isn’t wearing. Lust is not the fault of the person who dresses immodestly. Lust is an issue of the heart. It is something we can do something about by changing the way we view other human beings.
In my study of the subject of lust, I was brought to a deeper understanding of the text because I sought another perspective, and I believe my sermon benefitted from a woman’s point of view.