Preaching and Passion- What to make of sermon delivery?

July 7, 2009 at 4:54 pm Leave a comment

As a young pastor I am not as experienced in teaching as others. Over the last year or so I have had the opportunity to teach in some of the larger gatherings of our congregation, which is something that I really enjoy doing.

The one thing that I find most troubling about preaching (in general) is the demeanor, emotion, and “delivery” of a preacher while preaching. I have found myself asking, what does my manner of preaching communicate to the people?

This is something all Bible teachers must consider. This is what Aristotle referred to as a speaker’s “pathos”- to put his thought into a question, has the demeanor of a speaker projected that he, himself, was gripped and transformed by what he communicated?

It’s an odd thing to think about. It’s odd because the “delivery” of a message is very closely connected to the message that is being delivered. To put it another way, the delivery of a message is a message in and of itself.

Therefore, you never want the importance of your message to be drowned out by the monotony of your manner. Since I am writing to those of you who teach God’s word I am making the assumption that you believe that each message your deliver is of utmost importance, since, the communication of the gospel message is of eternal significance.

Preachers and bible teachers need to let this truth explode in their delivery.

As John Piper once wrote;

“O brothers, do not lie about the value of the gospel by the dullness of your demeanor. Exposition of the most glorious reality is a glorious reality.”

Or take it from Haddon Robinson;

“Since the vast amount of preaching involves attitudes that either reinforce or contradict what our words proclaim, a preacher dare not ignore delivery.”

Now, it’s obvious that you can take your approach to delivery too far. This is where many preachers come off as plastic and “cartoony” (Is that a word?). Many could serve as illustrations for sociologist Hal Himmelstein– who wrote that the modern preacher has become “culture’s most peculiar and most provocative version of the entertainer-celebrity.”

This is where Bryan Chapell makes a few good points. He argues that the real challenge of pulpit excellence…is not to add something to our delivery that is atypical of us but to reclaim the naturalness that is most true to us.”

The point is this, “showing genuine enthusiasm for what you deeply believe is the only unbreakable rule of great delivery.” Our delivery is nothing but a “tool for presenting the message rather than a stage for displaying skills.” And it’s a tool we need to use wisely. The gospel message is weighty.

For pastors, what make’s the delivery of a message so weighty is not just the hundreds or thousands of people that you stand before (even though that adds to it). It’s not the fact that we, as teachers, are often being recorded, video taped, and even live-streamed.

But that proclaiming the gospel is literally a life or death affair, because eternity hangs in the balance. This is what puritan pastor Richard Baxter was trying to communicate when he remarked, “I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”

Here are a few questions offered by Al Mohler that I think every pastor should have in mind when he opens God’s word to teach;

“Do we really believe that the world needs to hear the message of the gospel? Do we really believe that the gospel saves? Do we really believe that faith comes by hearing the Word of God?” I would hope that the answer is yes! He continues, “If so, then our minds should be filled with no more urgent desire than to preach.”

I pray that we would have this one desire. To preach in faith- with conviction and urgency- that God would open the eyes of the blind to see the riches of the gospel.

In closing let me say one thing. Ultimately we should have more concern with our faithfulness to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ, rather than our manner of delivery. But let our delivery be used as a tool to help project the urgency of the message being preached.

Entry filed under: Christianity, Faith, Religion, The Great Commission Resurgence, The Southern Baptist Convention.

The Southern Baptist Convention- Concerns, Critical Issues, and Observations. Tim Keller on the Implications of the Gospel

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