Good Preaching?

Today is Sunday, and many of you will be going to church somewhere. Many of you will not. So here is a question:

Does preaching have anything to do with your decision?

There are many opinions as to what constitutes “good” preaching. Some prefer a preacher who spits and hollers, bangs the pulpit, and makes that little “huh” sound between every amplified phrase. Others prefer the professor/preacher who reads from a manuscript in a mono-tone, non-offensive, Winnie the Pooh-like voice. Either way, what we are talking about is delivery, not substance.

Does delivery matter?

When Paul told Timothy to pay close attention to his doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16) and to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), content was the issue. However, if a sermon is poorly delivered, the efforts of the preacher could be nullified. If the hearer is distracted, bored, offended, lulled to sleep, or has his ear drums wounded, what is the point?

In my opinion, good preaching is preaching that contains solid, biblical content, but also keeps the audience engaged. One should never discount the importance of the power of the Spirit working through the weakness of men (1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:9). But, as ambassadors of the King (2 Cor. 5:20) who have been charged by our Sovereign to “compel” (persuade)  hungry souls to come to His table (Luke 14:23), shouldn’t how we say what we say be important?

It is reported that Abraham Lincoln preferred listening to preachers who looked like they were swatting at a swarm of bees. In a similar vein, I think it was Charles Wesley who said that a preacher should “put some fire in his sermon, or put his sermon in the fire.”

On the other hand, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is said to have read his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with a steady, monotone voice, as the audience screamed in terror at the thought of falling into hell. So, delivery shouldn’t matter?

It would make sense that those entrusted with delivering sermons should do so in a manner befitting the “greatest story ever told,” but does delivery make a difference? After all, some of the greatest public speakers of all time were tyrants (Adolph Hitler). Should delivery be an issue, or should we simply focus on truth?

What about you?

bibleWhat type of preaching style do you prefer? Has a particular style of sermon delivery ever caused you to tune out to what was being said?

Below is an example of me preaching. This sermon was delivered on a Sunday evening at Riverside Baptist (in the gym, while our auditorium was being remodeled). It was part of a series I did on the book of Ephesians and focused on the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the simple two word phrase, “but God.”

I’m interested in your feedback.

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14 Comments

Filed under Preaching

14 responses to “Good Preaching?

    • Actually, you mean Titus 2:13-15, correct?

      13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
      14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
      15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

  1. A minister who reads scripture and illustrates how it applies to me personally keeps my attention. Cliches put me to sleep, but as far as delivery I enjoy someone who gives a sermon as though we are having a conversation. Yell at me and I will walk out of the building! From what I am hearing in your sermon your delivery is like that. One thing though. It wasn’t until very recently that I learned once I became saved there was nothing I could do to lose my salvation. For someone like me who has trouble with confidence that is wonderful assurance. Thank you for reinforcing that. I have personal (usually tearful) revivals often.

  2. It wouldn’t download Anthony. I was hoping to put it on my phone and listen to it in the car as I drive later to the other side of the UK for a meeting early tomorrow.

  3. The intended application of 2 Cor 5:20 evinces that there’s not yet enough recovery for the Recovering Legalist. Let’s look at exactly what Paul and Timothy wrote.

    “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2Cor5:20

    2nd Corinthians is clearly a letter from Paul and Timothy to the believers in Corinth and all the saints in Achaia. Since that’s self evident (2 Cor 1:1), the “We” and “us” in 5:20 can only be Paul and Timothy, so the “you” must be the believers in Corinth and the saints in Achaia. They are the ones Paul and Timothy are appealing to on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. I mean, that’s exactly what Paul writes. To recap: “We”/”us” are Paul and Timothy, and “you” are the recipients of the letter, the believers in Corinth and Achaia.

    Question for recovering legalists everywhere: How does the church arrive at the command to preach as God’s ambassadors from Paul’s description of his and Timothy’s own purpose in writing this epistle? If we want to recover from legalism, start by letting the epistle stand for what it was written to accomplish — appeal to the Corinthian and Achaian saints (who it seems by being Saints–hagioi–would already be reconciled to God, come to think of it…)

    BTW, I too am a recovering legalist, but I’ve recovered, brothers. That’s why I’m commenting here now. If I may be allowed to borrow from Paul, I appeal to you to keep trying to as well. And the first step on the road to recovery is to let the epistles stand as exactly what they were when written — apostolic instructions and clarifications to specific people and bodies — even as under the inspiration of the Spirit which impelled Paul throughout his entire ministry, verbal and written. There’s much to be learned from these epistles in their own context, so we needn’t invent out own (i.e., assume the identity of Paul, as the blog author has done). I assert we learn the most when we recognize we’re reading a piece of Christian literary history (Praise be to God that He had it preserved for us!). This forces us away from the lazy hermeneutic of simply substituting ourselves for Paul (or Timothy, or Titus, or Philemon, or Gaius [3John1:1], or ….) Our growth comes as we are led by the Spirit to contemplate what the actual recipients did upon receiving the letters. That’s not easy, but it is what where we are today. This is difficult for biblical legalists, but I was under the impression that the point was recovery. Hope this helps, brothers. Peace be with you all.

    • My friend, thank you for taking the time to leave such a lengthy, detailed comment. However, I really don’t understand you’re complaint, especially in light of your own words in your last paragraph: “If I may be allowed to borrow from Paul…” I do not claim to be Paul, but borrowed his words (in light of proper context) to amplify the current context of being charged to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) with clarity, making the sense and understanding plain (Neh. 8:8) as it applied to the first readers, as well as now. As you borrowed, so do I.

      Specifically, in regards to being an ambassador, I submit the following definition from Easton’s Bible Dictionary:

      AMBASSADOR — In the Old Testament the Hebrew word tsir, meaning “one who goes on an errand,” is rendered thus (Josh. 9:4; Prov. 13:17; Isa. 18:2; Jer. 49:14; Obad. 1:1). This is also the rendering of melits, meaning “an interpreter,” in 2 Chr. 32:31; and of malak, a “messenger,” in 2 Chr. 35:21; Isa. 30:4; 33:7; Ezek. 17:15. This is the name used by the apostle as designating those who are appointed by God to declare his will (2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20).

      Adam Clarke (1760-1832) put it this way in his commentary: “Ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another; and is supposed to represent the person of the sovereign by whom he is deputed. Christ while on earth represented the person of the Sovereign of the world; his apostles and their successors represent the person of Christ. Christ declared the will of the Father to mankind; apostles, etc., declare the will of Christ to the world. We are ambassadors for Christ.”

      So, I still see myself as an ambassador representing the Kingdom of Heaven. If that is legalism, then yes, I am still recovering.

      • Anonymous

        Brother, I fear my point has been missed. Yes, I “borrowed” from Paul, in the sense of urging fellow believers. I acknowledge your assertion that you do not claim to be Paul, but your reply indicates you do essentially believe yourself to be Timothy. This is an important subtlety, so please keep reading.

        Why do I make such a claim? Because you use wording that refers to a “current context for being charged to preach the word.” And you cite 2 Tim 4:2 as the basis for it. In that sense, you assert whoever reads 2 Tim, is to receive the epistle as if he/she were Timothy. But the plain reading of 2 Tim 4:2 in context of the epistle compels us to recognize Timothy as the one so charged. It was not you; it was not us. This is inescapably clear from the context of this epistle — it is from Paul, to Timothy (2 Tim 1:1-2).

        My succinct point is this: while we are not the recipients of Paul’s charge to Timothy, we are the blessed beneficiaries of it. Timothy taught others who taught others who taught others… and so the Spirit affirms the same truths in us today. Not because Paul told Timothy, but because the same Spirit is at work in us today as it was then.

        Look, I realize it is difficult to let the epistles stand for themselves. I know it is the tradition of the church to assume and assert that every believer is the personal recipient of every epistle, if not Paul himself. This has produced the unintended consequence of creating a new religion of “Biblianity”, where we worship the texts themselves instead of the Creator and his whole word (logos) of truth, from Creation to Consummation.

        Finally, I do not presume to be persuasive enough to change your convictions — a man who creates his own blog is a man of some non-negotiable convictions. But friend, I implore you to examine them carefully and prayerfully. Once the veil of neo-legalism is lifted, the view of the Kingdom and the work to be done is unobstructed, and reveals a marvelous burden. And it begs us to walk by the Spirit to plow, seed, water, weed, and ultimately, harvest.

        Peace.

      • Out of curiosity, what commands of Scripture would apply to us? It would seem that if I were to use your understanding then there would not even be a “great commission.” For that matter, from where do you find any reason to share the Gospel or even bring glory to God, for are not those imperatives written to others? Seeding and planting was spoken of by Jesus to His disciples, not to us. Paul told his readers to walk in the Spirit. How, then, do you live the Christian life?

        I’m sorry, but what is your interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16 if 3:15 is only meant for Timothy?

        Well, I’m off to church.

  4. For me, good preaching includes scripture, inspiration, and personal experience. You delivered all three.

    As a Nazarene Pastor, I really enjoyed your take on the infilling of the Holy Spirit. As our denomination has matured over the years a big argument has been over sanctification and the deliverance of the Holy Spirit. I have read the old pamphlets that tell that story you spoke of. Maybe not ours, but I know that story. But thankfully we too have matured. You hit the nail on the head. The Holy Spirit clearly comes upon us as we are saved. No waiting, no E-Ticket needed, no magic incantation.

    Yes, the Spirit comes upon us again and again as we mature. It is with us at all times. But I thank God for those moments when I am overcome by His presence. When He stops me to show me something new or calls me to my feet in joy, By God.

    Thank You for sharing.

    • Thanks, Todd. I appreciate it.

      Now, I have a question for you. I went to your blog a few minutes ago and watched a little of your last sermon. Here’s my question(s): what happens when you whack a plexiglass pulpit? Does it have the same ring of authority as wood? And, where do you hide 10 year-old bulletins, lost pens, lost false teeth, breath mints, broken crayons, and cassette tape sound tracks of “Thank You for Giving to the Lord”?

      Inquiring Baptists want to know.

      • LOL!

        If you look real close on the right side of the pulpit (your left) there is a crack where our Senior Pastor found out what happens. When you break the pulpit you would think it might help your point. In his case it just made him stop and laugh. Kind of killed the moment. But hey, we got to laugh together at the Senior Pastors expense. What could be better? 🙂 No one was asleep though.

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