Preaching and teaching the Word of God is a top priority for church workers in every congregation. Likewise, there are numerous volunteer teachers and group leaders in every congregation. All of them prepare thoroughly and conscientiously because they want to get the preaching/teaching right. They honestly believe much is riding on accurate theology and insightful life application for their hearers and students. And they are right! Much is riding on this.
Here's the rub. If preaching/teaching is simply the accurate transmission of theology and abstract (albeit insightful) life application, we will see little growth/change in the people receiving the teaching. The reason? Jesus tells us. The end goal of His preaching/teaching is not simply knowing truth cognitively nor getting the right answer in a discussion or on a quiz. The goal of Jesus is experiencing His truth through putting it into practice in real life.
Jesus' parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7) says it this way: Don't be the fool who hears His words but doesn't put them into practice. You end up knowing the right answer in theory but remain inexperienced in how truth really works in life (like building on sand). Instead, be the wise one who hears His words AND puts them into practice. In this way you find out stuff about the Kingdom that the abstract thinkers never do. You find out how truth works in real life. You become an experienced Jesus-follower (like building on rock).
How can we turn the corner from simply preaching and studying God's Word accurately but abstractly to discipling our people in God's Word concretely? How can we start to see long awaited, long desired GROWTH in ourselves and our people? It starts with us no longer seeing preaching and teaching as ends in themselves and starting to use preaching and teaching as means to the greater end of discipling God's people... like Jesus does in the Gospels.
I have found we can do this in a simple, consistent way by adding one important question at the end of our preaching and teaching time (or our family devotions). Ask the people this question: "As a result of what you have received from God's Word today, what do you think He is giving you to believe or do in the coming week?" Then give everyone about 90 seconds to write down their response. When they are done, end with a closing prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to help everyone watch for opportunities to put that belief or practice into play during the week.
The next time your class or group gathers, give the people 10 minutes to break into groups of two or three and share with each other what they found out as they put that belief or practice into play. (We call this "Take-10.") This helps ground God's Word in the experience of their real lives and gives them deeper insights to the words of Jesus.
Give this a try for the next few weeks. If your experience is anything like those who have been doing this around the country, you will see a marked increase in the stories people have regarding hearing the words of Jesus AND putting them into practice.