10 THINGS I LEARNED IN SEMINARY - #2: PREACHING POINTS


[If you missed Carlo's first post on "Biblical Languages," check it out here! All the same, read on for some preaching tips he has learned over the past few years in this week's installment of "10 Things."]

"Great preachers aren't bornthey're developed." What do you think? I saw this posted on Facebook recently and I really do agree. After all, whether someone is clearly born with communication skills or God gifts them with preaching grace later in life, it stands that every minister will likely look back on their early sermons with a head shake and a smile.

Heck, I'm no different. I preached my first sermons in 2009 and there are certainly phrases, paragraphs and entire preaching times I wish I could take back. But I've learned a thing or two since then, both in seminary and behind the pulpit. Here are 16 things I've come to realize:

16 TRUTHS ABOUT PREACHING

1. Louder does not mean “more anointed.”

2. Faster does not mean “more anointed.”

3. Preaching with a manuscript does not mean “less anointed.”

4. Boring preaching is a sin unless you love boring preaching. (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”)

5. All the exegesis in the world means nothing if your church is asleep.

6. Leonard Ravenhill was right: "Victory is not won in the pulpit by firing intellectual bullets or wisecracks, but in the prayer closet; it is won or lost before the preacher’s foot enters the pulpit." Pray, pray, pray. And never underestimate what the Spirit of God can do in a service.

7. Success in the pulpit is not measured by tears, applause, or the number of people at the altar.

8. Success in the pulpit is not measured by "APM" (amens per minute).

9. Success in the pulpit is simply not quantifiable. However, if we have been faithful to God, faithful to his Word, and faithful to his people (particularly in communicating His Word clearly), I’d call that a win. :)

10. Culture matters. (More on this next week!)

11. Every preacher should answer one question for their congregation within the first 10 minutes of any sermon or suffer the consequences: “Why should I care?” The primary consequence for not answering this question: chronic boredom.

12. A lot of ministers today preach their own opinions and use the Word to back them up. A minister's true calling? To "preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2). Everything else is auxiliary.

13. Don’t bend Bible texts to make them mean what you want them to mean. Context is king.

14. If every sermon illustration I use lifts up myself, then I must ask the question: Am I preaching Christ crucified or myself glorified?

15. Ultimately, success in preaching is not dependent upon our abilities but upon the God who equips, enables and changes lives. This means that even the best preacher must be reminded of his/her low estate. And this means that even the weakest preacher will find grace enough to carry out God's will.

Earlier this year Carlo preached about preaching during an APTS Chapel service. But he's still got a lot to learn!

Last but not least... #16!

16. Should we forego eloquence and preach plainly? After all, isn't Paul's example in 1 Corinthians 2:1 clear: "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God"? The answer may surprise you. In considering 1 Cor 2:1-5, Mark Galli and Craig Brian Larson have pointed out a surprising amount of rhetorical devices used in that passage alone, including hyperbole (“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”), parallelism (“my speech and my message”), and contrast (“so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God”). Their conclusion? “In short, the very passage that seems to castigate rhetoric is itself a model of rhetoric.”

When you add the fact that Paul is quite eloquent elsewhere in the Scriptures, the picture becomes quite clear: Paul is not saying "no" to rhetoric. He's saying "no" to anything that obscures a vision of the Gospel of Christ. When eloquence is master, that is exactly what can happen. But when the cross is front and center, eloquence can make a useful servant.

-C.

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