Sunday, May 13, 2018

Preaching - It's Not About Style

Battle Creek, Michigan

The apostle Paul confessed that he was not a great preacher. He wrote:

I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. (2 Cor. 11:6)


When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. (1 Cor. 2:1)

People fell asleep and died while listening to Paul.

Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. (Acts 20:9. For the full story see here.)

Early church history describes Paul as "a man little of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace: for sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel." ("The Acts of Paul," II.3. For more see Ben Witherington, The Paul Quest, p. 42 ff., "Analyzing Paul's Appearance.") 

If the apostle Paul was alive today, and advertised as a conference speaker, who would go? His promo-photo would look like Sesame Street's "Bert." 

Paul knew that all he brought to the preaching table was the message of the good news of Jesus, and the power of God. He writes:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Cor. 2:4-5)
So preachers, take heart! Preaching that God uses to move the hearts of people cannot be about style. Forego spending money on the face lift, the hair transplant, and nose reconstruction. Don't spend money on tight jeans. The only thing I suggest is: trim your eyebrows, please. I won't be able to look at you if you have a pair of feather dusters on your brow. Your people will be distracted if you look like you just walked off the set of "The Lord of the Rings."
Tim Keller writes:
"Preaching is compelling to young secular adults not if preachers use video clips from their favorite movies and dress informally and sound sophisticated, but if the preachers understand their hearts and culture so well that listeners feel the force of the sermon’s reasoning, even if in the end they don’t agree with it."