Compassionate Preaching

When asked recently to briefly share a few thoughts about speaking to people (i.e. preaching), I was happy to share some principles I try to keep in mind. Predominant among those thoughts is that we should be compassionate preachers. Compassionate preaching is characterized by…

*Manner of speech. I personally do not like to be yelled at, and I do not choose to yell in my sermons. That does not preclude elevated speech or even excitable speech, but angry accusatory yelling is not in my playbook.

*Paying attention to setting. I was once in the middle of a sermon when I could smell smoke. I was young, inexperienced, and uncertain about what to do. When it became obvious that other people were looking around nervously and had lost all interest in what I’m sure was a fascinating topic, I acknowledged the smoke smell and we dismissed. It was a ballast in a florescent light that had burned out. I think it would have been a great setting if I had been preaching on hell! This relates to other issues such as length of the sermon. I do not like to hear sermons that go beyond 20 or 25 minutes, so I do not preach longer than that. There are a few masters among us who are able to capture the attention for longer … but not very many.

*Sermons are preached to people. These are not brotherhood editors who need to be instructed on the right views of all of the issues facing Christendom. These are individuals with struggles and hurts who face painful dilemmas. They need a word from the Lord to bring light into their darkness. That reality should shape not only what we say but how we say it.

*Identification. Never say “you” when you can say “we”. As the preacher I am not the sinless judge sending down judgment from on high. There is a judge, and I’m not Him. I’m in the same situation as my audience – a stumbling sinner in desperate need of grace. Instead of saying “You are sinners, and you’ve probably even sinned today”, I am reminded to say “We are sinners, and we’ve probably even sinned today.” It’s a totally different perspective.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to express those things… I need a reminder often.

Thanks for reading,

~John

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