Recently I was in a worship service as a visitor. I enjoyed hearing the praise
to the sermon was the fact that much of what the minister said was too deep for
the listeners. The mistake the preacher made was that he assumed a deeper
level of spiritual understanding in the people than they actually possessed. The
result was that even though what he taught was sound and good, it did not
produce fruit in most of the folks attending the worship service. He shot over their
I believe this to be a widespread problem with ministers. It is one that I wrestle with constantly when I preach and teach.
I want to take the saints to deeper water and perhaps many want to follow me there; however, if I venture too far out the
majority of the attendees will receive little from my efforts. If you have been in the ministry very long, you too have faced
this dilemma. So what are we to do?
Let’s start with some common sense, first. It makes good sense to not try to feed beef steak to an infant. We would all
agree with that statement. The infant does not know what to do with it. He cannot chew it, so it becomes a matter of
frustration, leaving him hungry and unfulfilled. So it is with spiritual food and spiritual infants. Scripture tells us there are
various levels of biblical instruction; there is the milk and the meat. The spiritual infant can eat only the milk. (Hebrews 5:
12-14) Keep in mind that a spiritual infant can be 60 year of age. So do not assume that just because there is a mature
adult sitting there, he is able to eat anything you feed him. It takes sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to know what to feed your
people. Since He lives within you, you have your Teacher right there 24/7 guiding you. Learn to listen to Him to help solve
The Sunday morning worship service in most churches is the one gathering in which there are all spiritual ages of
believers. Because of this fact, you the pastor must gauge your pulpit ministry in that particular service to accommodate
everyone. This is actually quite a task. In order to make this happen it will be usually be necessary to find some middle-
ground that is not too deep so the majority of the folks can glean a benefit from your ministry. Actually, the depth of
ministry will be just above milk for the most part. The little ones cannot feed themselves yet and the older ones can, so
you as the pastor must focus on the spiritually immature people in that setting. The older ones will be fed at a different
time and in a different setting. I call this tool SELECTIVE INSTRUCTION.
The fruitful church is the one that understands this concept of feeding at different levels and sets in place certain times
of ministry for each level. As an example, years ago when I was pastoring a local church, I had what I called “Deep
Waters” on Monday nights. This was the time we would explore the Scriptures in ways we could not in the worship
services. Everyone was welcome, but everyone understood the purpose for the session was to delve deeper into the
Word for the more mature believers. We enjoyed some juicy steaks during those sessions!
Another helpful tool that will help you reach all spiritual levels in a single message is what I call the 3-STAGES TEACHING
APPROACH. Let’s assume there are three distinct stages of spiritual development in a believer; therefore, we must teach
at a level which will instruct each stage. For example, let’s say we are using as our sermon text the feeding of the five
thousand in Mark 6. I might address this passage using the 3-Stage Teaching Approach as follows:
Stage 1 (Infant level)
The infant needs more than anything to know the character of God. Jesus was the demonstration of His character.
Jesus said when someone sees Him they see the Father. The infant needs to know that when he reads about Jesus
(especially in the Four Gospels) he is actually seeing God. This then becomes a tool for him to get to know God. He can
see in this passage the compassion of God for people, even physical needs are important to Him. This passage can help
establish this truth in the infant. It develops a true sense that God loves him.
Stage 2 (child level)
The child is curious about details. For him it is good to point out that Jesus instructs His disciples to seat the mass of
people in an orderly fashion – in groups of fifties and hundreds. He needs to know that God is a God of order. It is far
easier to feed thousands with a plan-of-action than it is to wade through the mass of humanity seated all over the
hillside. The spiritual child needs to understand that first he should mature in natural matters before much spiritual
progress will be made. The natural comes before the spiritual. There were some natural things Jesus needed to do
before the miracle took place; the child discovers this truth here. This is a wonderful passage with which to teach this
concept. This helps you as a pastor build into your people the need for diligence in natural matters as well as in spiritual
Stage 3 (adult level)
The mature believer believes in miracles already, so you do not concentrate on the fact that so many people were fed
with so little. But what you can focus on is “how” Jesus did what He did. Here is a great place to teach the principle of
creation. This is a deeper concept the other two levels will find hard to wrap around. Here you teach the basics of faith.
The faith of a man (Man) is what performed this miracle; the same faith that every believer possesses. Jesus did not
perform this miracle as the Son of God. He did it as the Son of Man. The mature Christian should be operating in full faith
and should be seeing miracles in his life and through his ministry to others. Instruct and encourage and motivate the
mature ones to higher heights in faith.
The question is this: Can you teach from this passage in a single sermon and reach all three levels during that single
service? The answer is “Yes!” I have found that it is helpful to tell the congregation that I will deal with the passage at
three levels and then I explain the three levels. This helps believers to understand and discern where they are
spiritually, and might help them avoid frustration that occurs because they think more highly of themselves than they
should. They will tend to focus more on the level of your teaching that pertains to them and they will get more from it.
My suggestion to you is that you use both tools. These suggestions take more effort on your part, but as you see
spiritual growth in all your people, you will be glad you paid the price. Be blessed in your ministry.
|TWO HELPFUL TEACHING TOOLS