“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” -2 Timothy 4:2
I’m not totally sure why quite yet, but I’ve never really loved the word “preach”. And this coming from a guy who’s been referred to for years as a “preacher”. Not only that, but I’m literally “the son of a preacher man.” But with the instruction the apostle Paul gives his young protégé Timothy in the verse above, I should probably have kind of a comfort with it, don’t you think?
Maybe it’s because the word “preach” has taken on a type of negative connotation. When I say “preacher”, you might get a mental image of a televangelist in a thousand dollar suit standing behind some gold-plated pulpit with tears streaming down his face as he confesses some private sin made public.
Maybe you hear the word “preach” and you think about what its like to be “preached at” and that propels you back to your teen years when your parents lectured you for hours on end over whatever mistake you got caught making.
Maybe you hear the word “preach” and you think about a church and the baggage that comes along with that word and those people who go there.
Or maybe its something else entirely.
I’ve had several times immediately following different sermons I’ve “preached” when someone would approach me with a smile and say, “That was a good speech.” Honestly? I cringe inside when I hear that. Of course I know what they mean and I appreciate them taking the time to share their gratitude, but…well….nevermind.
But I suppose there is a lot more to say positively about the word “preach” and as I was listening to a sermon recently, I began to think of the different components, styles, or methods of “preaching”. So, just for fun I’ve come up with a variety of components that are commonly (or should be) found in effective “preaching”. And just to make it corny, I’m using the acronym PREACH. (Let’s all roll our eyes together, shall we?)
P. Practical: Believe me, I trust the Spirit of God to lead you to places of application as you listen to the “preacher preach”, but I also appreciate when a pastor gives suggestions for practically living out the truth from God’s Word that they just spend time teaching. Personally, I think there’s too much “how to do” preaching and not enough “how to be” preaching.
R. Relatable: The best preachers I’ve heard have dirt under their fingernails. With all due respect to polished and refined teachers of the Word who seem like they’ve got their act together, I find myself more connected to preachers who are living life as they preach. There’s an approachability that comes along with the sense that this preacher isn’t just preaching, they’re wrestling. That being said, I also see the value of a preacher being careful not to make their sermon a place for dirty laundry. There’s something to be said for a preacher having settled (and won) some wrestling matches as well.
E. Exposition: I mentioned earlier being the son of a preacher man. My dad is one of the most knowledgeable Bible preachers/teachers I know. He’s my go-to when I’ve got questions of my own. And he is an “expository” preacher who is passionate about expository preaching. Now, I don’t think the average pew-sitting listener is really up at night wondering how to pronounce the Greek word “dikaiosune”, but I do think there’s power in preaching the original, honest, true-to-intent words of the Bible. While I may not literally speak a Greek word in a sermon (or I may), you’d better believe that I’ve studied them in preparation for that sermon so that I’m preaching what the original author intended.
A: Anecdotes: I don’t mean silly stories with no point, I mean stories that connect the listener to the truth being preached. I’ve got a word for sermons with no stories: boring. Look at how Jesus taught; he used stories all the time. The word “parable” actually means “to set beside for the purpose of comparison” (I’ll spare you the Greek word for parable). Jesus knew the power of story and knew that stories are the #1 way to connect. A preacher who doesn’t leverage stories needs to understand what’s missing…and fix it. If you’ve ever heard me preach, you may know that I find humor to be one of the best ways to connect with the listeners. And a preacher who doesn’t care about connecting with those listening should stick to preaching to a mirror.
Conviction: There are few things more compelling than seeing someone with passion. Think about it. Passion is what moves people. I had a professor in college that taught hermeneutics with zero passion. He was brilliant and if you could pry him away from his 3×5 note cards he read from every day of class, you could see glimpses of that passion. At the end of the year evaluation, I told him he missed the off ramp to retirement years ago. Without passion, his content–no matter how great–was dry and difficult to absorb.
Humility: As with any follower of Jesus, this is perhaps the greatest, most critical ingredient for preachers. I’m so gratified by compliments I receive regarding my preaching. If you’ve ever given me one, you’ve likely heard me say two things: “Thank you!” and “Praise the Lord.” I’m genuinely thankful when people take time to share if/how a sermon has affected them. And saying “Praise the Lord” isn’t me being churchy and speaking Christianese. I’m actually reminding myself that the credit is His alone. Its like getting a compliment for a tie I’m wearing. Its nice, but all I did was tie it in a knot around my neck.
As I prepare to preach, I refer to a list of questions I keep nearby. Maybe I’ll share those some other time. For now, what are YOUR thoughts on “preachers” and “preaching”?
Or do only preachers think about this stuff?