Again, I will be sharing some thought from Darius Slater's book, "Preaching as Art," then I will give some practical applications based on his material.
The word "relevant" comes fromthe latin word, "relevare" and it means "to lift up again." This would imply that we would lift up again something that is familiar to us. For most Americans theology is not familiar to them unless it is attached to something familiar like Starbucks. Don't you love Len Sweet's book, "The Gospel According to Starbucks." THis is exactly what he is attempting to do.
What is familiar to all people is not the latest hip trend but the very details of life. Life is worked out in details and routines and preaching must intersect those details and routines to be effective. You can be all creative, but if it doesn't connect where people live in everyday life then it's just a fancy painting on a wall.
Good preaching takes life as is and leads the auditor how life could be and should be.
Many times our words are just fancy and not relevant. Paul said I did not come to you with fancy words but with the plain Gospel of Christ. Too many times we mistake creativity with fancy word smithing, and that simply isn't the case.
Your words must be relevant. You can't have the fire without wood. They must have substance, movement, and grace. Without substance our words will be wash over people and not quench their thirst. In a sense you can call it spiritual water boarding, and that's torture.
How can our words be more relevant?
I use a tool I came up with called an identification grid. It is a conglomeration of many different ideas being smashed together. I cannot recall where they all came from. The more I work with it the more I edit it. It has proved helpful in making my words more relevant.
How do people handle the issue emotionally?
What does our culture teach/react to this topic?
Questions people in each stage of life tend to be asking themselves or working through. How does your scriptural intersect with each life stage? What relevant words could you put into that intersection?
> People in 20’s
What makes me different from my family and the people around me?
In what direction am I going to point my life in order to pay for my life?
Am I loveable and am I capable of loving?
Around what will I center my life?
> People in 30's
How can I get done for all these I am responsible?
Why do I have so many self-doubts?
Why is my spiritual center so confused?
Why haven’t I resolved my sin problems?
Why is there so little time for friendships?
> People in 40’s
Why are some of my peers doing better than me?
Why am I so often disappointed in myself and others?
Why isn’t my faith deeper?
Why is my marriage less than dazzling?
Why do I learn to go back to the carefree days of youth?
Should I scale back some of my dreams?
Why do I no longer feel attractive?
> People in 50’s
Do these young people think I’m obsolete?
Why is my body becoming increasingly unreliable?
What do my spouse and I have in common now that the children are leaving?
Does this marriage of mine offer any intimacy at all?
Are the best years of my life over?
Do I have anything of value to give anymore?
> People in 60’s
How long can I keep doing the things that define me?
Why do my peers look so much older than me?
What does it mean to grow old?
How do I deal with angers and resentments that I’ve never resolved?
Why do my friends and I talk so much about death and dying?
> People in 70’s
Does anybody around here once know who I was?
How do I cope with all this increasing weakness around me?
How many years do I have left?
How long can I keep my independence and dignity?
When I die, how will it happen?
What about all of those things I intended to do and be and never got around to it?
What I have found as I have moved through my thirties and twenties and as I enter my forties is I am accutley aware of my own life stage and I can easily forget where other people's life stages. This grid helps my sermon's consider applications and concerns outside of my age range. It helps make my sermons more relevant after meditating my scriptural point of the messsage through this grid.