It’s been a while.
On Sunday night I was at a service where a young guy was preaching. I think it was his first time. This guy does a great job ministering and working with teenagers. But preaching to a mixed congregation was a new experience and pretty daunting.
He did a good job. He dealt with the text, explained it well, used illustrations, spoke intelligible English. Good stuff. I hope he gets constructive feedback and does it again, even better.
Thinking about this reminded me of early feedback I got in my early days of preaching. Frankly, I didn’t understand what I was hearing. So I heard similar things several times over.
“You obviously haven’t done much preaching.”
“You are very nervous.”
“You need to grow in confidence in the Word.”
This last one was from a pastor who wrote three sides of A4 of constructive criticism. I didn’t understand this comment at the time. I thought I did have confidence in the Word.
Now I realise that I was proud, thought of myself and my abilities too highly, expected praise every time. I had no confidence in the Word, just in me. Hence my preaching was self-conscious and woeful.
Over the last three years I have been discovering the truth. I am nothing, Christ is everything. I am called to be a no-name servant who rolls up before the congregation to deliver a message from the King. And they must know it is from the King of Kings. This means
- The no-name preacher must have a deep appreciation of who his Lord is. Christ has absolute authority. No-name must demand to be heard. When he speaks all people should be silent.
- The no-name preacher must know the message, its point, its application. He needs to steep himself in it and spend a lot of time with God about it, wrestling.
- No-name must receive the message himself. He is both a servant and a subject.
- As No-name preaches, he must seek the approval of his King. No-name may not like the message. The congregation may not like it. But that doesn’t matter if Jesus Christ wants it said.
- When No-name preaches he must demand the full attention of the hearers. Not because of himself but because of Jesus Christ. That means he must preach with certainty, conviction and clarity. (Thanks to John MacArthur for this alliteration!) He must not be happy that some people look out the window, fiddle with their watch, look bored. If that is the case something has gone wrong. It may be something wrong with them, but most probably with No-name.
- A no-name preacher must be willing to die for preaching the King’s message. Yes, die.
I have had several opportunities over the last three years to speak to other preachers about preaching. Often the conversation gets down to these things. Not “methods” or “techniques” but about heart: preaching as a man who belongs to Another.
I didn’t get a chance to speak to this young guy after the service. But I would have told him the essence of what I have listed above.
Finally, having ranted a little on this, I have a confession to make. I have much to learn about this. Last Sunday morning was probably the worst sermon I have preached for a while. As I was preaching I was thinking, “What is your point?” Without certainty there is no conviction. Without conviction there is no clarity. Without clarity the people do not hear. If they do not hear they cannot believe. They get nothing but sore ears. What good is that?