How are students coming to faith? #12 Sunday preaching

One of the key influences on a student coming to faith in Jesus today is the impact of Sunday preaching.*

This final key factor in students coming to faith was one I hadn't expected. Turns out, our Sunday preaching matters! It’s not the most important thing in a student coming to faith, but it actually makes a real difference and three quarters of the students I interviewed especially named it as such.

For a number of students, the power of worship music was a very significant part of their faith story, many explaining that it was during worship they first encountered the Holy Spirit or heard about Jesus. I thought this would end up in my top twelve, but the more data I gathered, the more the Sunday sermon at church came up as being a key influence for these students hearing about Jesus and deciding to commit to him.

Here's what some of them said:

“I wasn’t feeling the Holy Spirit through worship, it was more the sermons… often a sermon would really hit me.”

“It was in a sermon I finally understood, or rather grasped a tiny amount of what grace meant.”

I'm a preacher so perhaps you're thinking I'm biased here. However, although I am called to preach and teach the word of God, I am actually not as sold-out to the front-led preaching thing on Sundays as you might assume. I so desperately believe in discipleship and firmly recognise you can't make disciples from a platform, that if anything I shy away from putting too much emphasis on the pulpit. And I still would, if it at all tasted of ego or personality-driven talent, rather than Holy Spirit anointing. 

But the truth is, I care about really good communication of the best story in the world. I care about how people hear the good news with authenticity, and with power. And what I've discovered is, students care about this too, the not-yet-Christians in particular are paying attention, they are listening to what you say, how you say it, and they are working out if they believe in Jesus as you introduce him in your preaching.

Considering this is the case, who does your teaching at church on Sunday? Who gets to shape the preaching? Does anyone have students and not-yet-believers in mind? If you're a student reading this, how might you find out who is in the sermon series meetings and see if your demographic has a voice there yet?

What do you think are some of the most important things that should be taught on Sundays? What do your housemates and those you are inviting for the first time need to hear? What would you preach?

It is also worth saying, for a couple of the students who came to faith, it was after a sermon that a call to respond and give your life to Jesus was made, in which they decided to follow him. Giving an opportunity to respond to Jesus on a Sunday takes discipline and commitment from those speaking and leading the service, but it's worth remembering, for some, that could be their moment of accepting the invitation of God. 

It's not all on the preacher of course. If you have brought your mate to church, its your job to sit with them, pray for and with them, help translate the message for them if they have questions, and coach them through your church's culture if they need it. But let's have confidence in the power of the spoken word of God to change hearts and lives and see students come to faith in Christ today.

Check the rest of the series out here: #1 Sunday Church, #2 Small Groups, #3 Prayer, #4 Questions, #5 Key Friend, #6 The Bible, #7 Welcome, #8 Holy Spirit, #9 Authenticity, #10 Broken Relationships, #11 Mentoring

*These statements are taken from research completed for my Masters degree in which I explored commonalities of students coming to faith in Jesus in England today. I gathered data from a spread of institutions, geographical locations, church expressions and interviewed an equal number of male and female students, with some diversity in background and ethnicity as well. Although my findings have limitations and my scope of data had to be small, I believe what I have discovered is still very useful for local churches seeking to share Jesus with students and so this blog series explores the top 12 commonalities discovered. Enjoy!

Miriam Swaffield

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church to share Jesus with students in Europe and beyond. She lives in Middlesbrough, loves her neighbours and thinks she can surf.

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