As a preacher, I’m a one hit wonder. Once I preach, people wonder what I meant and then one guy hits me.
Preaching is hard.
Preaching carries weight with it. It’s not like giving a speech in speech class. Souls are on the line. Heresy is around every verbal bend. You can destroy people’s souls by saying something the wrong way. Not to mention giving an account before God someday for how I represented Him and His word.
Besides personal accountability, you also want to be understood. There’s no point in talking if people have no idea what you said. Tons of books have been written about preaching and effective communication. But there are pitfalls here. Paul says not to use words of human wisdom and smooth talk. We’re not selling something. We bring words of eternal life.
Many pastors decide to be boring. If we’re boring enough then anyone who hears what we say is proof it was God at work.
Others try to be as persuasive as possible, using all manner of salesmanship and personability. By any means necessary, trick them into getting saved by your rhetorical mastery.
Some use humor and entertainment.
I’m a funny guy. No really, I’m serious, I’m funny.
I can do a standup routing every sermon. I have that ability. I’ve done it several times. It feels good and people do enjoy it and hear what I’m saying. But does it convey scriptural truth, or am I just entertaining? Do people go away rejoicing in the Lord or celebrating my comedic genius? Do they remember the Scripture or just my clever illustration?
Pastors have to wrestle with this tension.
One week I preached a sermon that I thought was brilliant. I had no illustrations, just an exposition of a chunk of Romans 3. Pure genius well stated.
I asked my kids afterward what they learned. Deer in the headlights. My wife said, “Well, it was a hard sermon to understand.” My heart sunk.
“No way!” I said. “I really worked on being understandable. I thought it was one of the best explanations of that passage I’ve ever done.”
So I spent the week thinking about this. How can I think I totally nailed an explanation of a passage, only to hear that it was hard to understand? At the same time, about three people in church told me how helpful and thought-provoking the sermon was. OK, so who’s right? Who do I preach for: the ones at the top or the ones at the bottom?
So the next week I decided to work a few more illustrations into my sermon. I put some more jokes in there, some more unique explanatory stuff. I could tell by looks on some faces they were disappointed I was just riffing on the subject and not going deeper. No one mentioned the scriptural point to me afterwards, but they all mentioned my illustration.
I don’t know.
I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I still have no idea how to preach right. Where is the line where I become too much and the Scripture too little?
I don’t know. The foolishness of preaching indeed.
I think I explained my point well both weeks and I think my point was biblical and non-heretical. I would stand before the Lord with both sermons. I guess I have to let it go at that.
Someone else can’t tell you how to preach, it’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Humor for some preachers is good but not for others. There’s no hard and fast rule given in the Bible about it. Illustrations are always tricky. Jesus said in Matthew 13 that He used parables so people would NOT know what He was talking about to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that they have ears that won’t hear. Do illustrations help or not?
I have no idea. Work it out. You’ll stand before God. Preach wisely.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power
–1 Corinthians 2:3-4
2 thoughts on “The Preacher’s Dilemma: How Much Me is too Much Me?”
You know, the very best sermons I’ve ever heard, the preacher didn’t preach, the Holy spirit did. The poor guy had almost no idea how profound his words were or what he even said that resonated so well.
I’ve heard such things before. I have no idea what that means practically though. I have no doubts the Spirit works in the speaker and the hearer and I pray for such things. But a guy still has to prepare and preach a sermon at some point.
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