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Thread: Passion in the pulpit

  1. #1

    Passion in the pulpit

    Based on a recent conversation that I had with a non-reform minded family member I have been wondering what demonstration of passion or fervor ought to accompany the preached word?

    Countless times I have heard the argument that passion is the one trait that a good pastor will bring with him to the pulpit since this is a "sign" that the Spirit has anointed a person.

    These types of statements are often accompanied by an assertion that preaching passionately and preaching doctrinally are polar opposites. This false dichotomy drives me up the wall and I would like to hear how others would give an answer.

    I also believe that at the heart of these types of arguments is the assumption that the goal of preaching is merely moral persuasion because Christianity really is just bare ethics, "Do this and you will live."

    But again, is a demonstration of passion a prerequisite for good preaching?
    Jeff Scott
    Pastor of Covenant Grace OPC
    Roseburg, OR

  2. #2
    is a demonstration of passion a prerequisite for good preaching?
    It has been said that, Jonathan Edwards spoke in a monotone voice, and read his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I think it was a good sermon. It "sparked" the Great Awakening.
    Sterling Harmon
    Presbyterian Church of Coventry (PCA)
    Coventry, CT
    Ruling Elder
    ________________

    "Whatever is laudable in our works proceeds from the grace of God."
    -- John Calvin, Institutes III:xv.3.

    "Our Lord God must be a good man, to be fond of worthless fellows. I cannot like them, and yet I, myself, am one."
    -- Martin Luther, Table Talk

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  3. #3
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    There is a difference between "passion" in the acting sense and "sincerity" and "passion" in the preaching sense.
    Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP
    Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
    Ellisville, Mississippi

    ‎‎""The Christian religion is the religion of sinners, of such as have sinned, and in whom sin in some measure still dwells. The Christian life is a life of continued repentance, humiliation for and mortification of sin, of continual faith in, thankfulness for, and love to the Redeemer, and hopeful joyful expectation of a day of glorious redemption, in which the believer shall be fully and finally acquitted, and sin abolished for ever."
    -- Matthew Henry on 1 John 1:9


    Blogging at: Mountains and Magnolias and The Confessional ARP

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Presbyterian Deacon View Post
    is a demonstration of passion a prerequisite for good preaching?
    It has been said that, Jonathan Edwards spoke in a monotone voice, and read his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I think it was a good sermon. It "sparked" the Great Awakening.
    I don't know whether he actually did that (it has all the marks of an apocryphal story), but it is foolish to use that as an excuse to be intentionally boring and monotone in the pulpit.

    The preacher should speak as a dying man to dying men. That does not mean melodrama, but would anyone speak flippantly, or monotone to a neighbor whose house was on fire? Or to parents whose 5 year old lay dying in a hospital bed? Of course not.

    Passion absolutely has its place in the pulpit.
    Fred Greco
    Senior Pastor, Christ Church PCA (Katy, TX)
    Christ Church Blog

    "The heart is the main thing in true religion...It is the hinge and turning-point in the condition of man's soul. If the heart is alive to God and quickened by the Spirit, the man is a living Christian. If the heart is dead and has not the Spirit, the man is dead before God." (J.C. Ryle)

  5. Sometimes I'm passionate, sometimes I'm not. That's reality.
    [FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=2][COLOR=black]Ivan Schoen ~ [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=2][COLOR=black]The Church in [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=Book Antiqua][SIZE=2][COLOR=black]Poplar Grove, IL[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
    [SIZE=2][FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=black]=================================[/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE]
    [LEFT][SIZE=2][FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=black][SIZE=2][FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=black]"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives." ~ Henry David Thoreau[/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE][SIZE=2][FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=black][/LEFT]
    [/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE]

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Presbyterian Deacon View Post
    is a demonstration of passion a prerequisite for good preaching?
    It has been said that, Jonathan Edwards spoke in a monotone voice, and read his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I think it was a good sermon. It "sparked" the Great Awakening.
    In his early years Edwards was a bit monotone, but I understand that he developed his style over the years. Sinners was probably not so dispassionate. Regardless, as my preaching professor said, "You're not Jonathan Edwards." He said the same thing when we pointed out that Spurgeon didn't write his sermons until Saturday night...

    If one does not have proper doctrine then what's there to be passionate about? He who is passionate about anything else is a salesman passionate about his sale. But to own the truth of Christ and have the privilege to proclaim such wonders to our fellow man should engender such passion as to be evident not just in our preaching, but in our daily lives. Do our veins flow with the glories of Christ as revealed in Scripture; or with the mundane imaginations of our deified philosophies and earthly passions?

    Am I always this passionate? No. But I should be.
    For the Glory of our King,
    Joe Johnson
    Slave of Christ, husband, father, grandfather and TMS graduate. Personal website - SoundLife.org
    I do not know, and I do not say, that a person cannot believe in Revelation and in evolution, too, for a man may believe that which is infinitely wise and also that which is only asinine. ~ CHS

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Wannabee View Post
    If one does not have proper doctrine then what's there to be passionate about? He who is passionate about anything else is a salesman passionate about his sale.
    Speaking as a salesman, a salesman who's passion is all about his sale won't last as a salesman. You cannot sell with integrity if your passion does not lie in the prosperity of your customer. Passion that is not specifically directed and guided by principle is not passion- it is either lust or covet.

    Theognome
    Bill Cunningham
    Covenant Reformed Church, URC
    Kansas City
    There are three kinds of people- those who can count, and those who can't.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by fredtgreco View Post
    The preacher should speak as a dying man to dying men. That does not mean melodrama, but would anyone speak flippantly, or monotone to a neighbor whose house was on fire? Or to parents whose 5 year old lay dying in a hospital bed? Of course not.

    Passion absolutely has its place in the pulpit.
    soli Deo gloria!
    ~Nicholas~
    Pastor, Boyce Memorial ARP, Kings Mountain, NC. (SermonAudio) GPTS Alumnus
    Christians are like snow covered dung; it is the purity of the covering which the Father sees. -Luther-
    There is nothing more ugly than a Christian orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion.
    -Francis Schaeffer-

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by fredtgreco View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Presbyterian Deacon View Post
    is a demonstration of passion a prerequisite for good preaching?
    It has been said that, Jonathan Edwards spoke in a monotone voice, and read his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I think it was a good sermon. It "sparked" the Great Awakening.
    I don't know whether he actually did that (it has all the marks of an apocryphal story), but it is foolish to use that as an excuse to be intentionally boring and monotone in the pulpit.
    Agreed. I cited it simply because of the way the question was worded. Is it a "prerequisite for good preaching?" If it is not an apocryphal story, then NO, I would say it is not a prerequisite to good preaching. However, I agree. I would never advocate being "intentionally boring and montone." But I merely assert that God can use a grand variety of pulpit style and mannerisms for His glory.
    Sterling Harmon
    Presbyterian Church of Coventry (PCA)
    Coventry, CT
    Ruling Elder
    ________________

    "Whatever is laudable in our works proceeds from the grace of God."
    -- John Calvin, Institutes III:xv.3.

    "Our Lord God must be a good man, to be fond of worthless fellows. I cannot like them, and yet I, myself, am one."
    -- Martin Luther, Table Talk

    Interim Pulpit Supply of New England

    My Facebook

  10. #10
    Thanks, Sterling.
    Fred Greco
    Senior Pastor, Christ Church PCA (Katy, TX)
    Christ Church Blog

    "The heart is the main thing in true religion...It is the hinge and turning-point in the condition of man's soul. If the heart is alive to God and quickened by the Spirit, the man is a living Christian. If the heart is dead and has not the Spirit, the man is dead before God." (J.C. Ryle)

  11. #11
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    I'm just a layperson, but my thoughts on this subject are that a minister can be super passionate in his preaching and not manifest much in the way of outward movements or shouting or pulpit pounding...

    A perfect example of this would be of my pastor when I was at the OPC. I must say that pastor Bill Warren was certainly the best preacher I ever sat under. I was mesmerized by his sermons. You could see the passion for what he was preaching by the love he had for the Lord and His Word. (I'm getting goosebumps just remembering.)
    -- Which reminds me, I should try and obtain some of his recorded sermons. They would be perfect to listen to in the car.

    Oh, and it makes me smile remembering when I asked him about his studying under John Murray, and then how his eyes lit up as he told the stories...

    Anyway, sorry for going off on a tangent like that. I guess my point is, your passion will shine through your preaching when you love Christ much and love His doctrines much.
    Alex - Orange County, CA - PCA

    "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but
    Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by
    faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
    Galatians 2:20


    Manton - "The sovereign dominion of God is a great prop to our faith."

  12. #12
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    You can be passionate without being flamboyant...I think passion can come through in even soft-spoken men. There is a fire that is evident...sometimes with raised voice, sometimes without.

    (Didn't see Alex's post...he surmised it well.)
    soli Deo gloria!
    ~Nicholas~
    Pastor, Boyce Memorial ARP, Kings Mountain, NC. (SermonAudio) GPTS Alumnus
    Christians are like snow covered dung; it is the purity of the covering which the Father sees. -Luther-
    There is nothing more ugly than a Christian orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion.
    -Francis Schaeffer-

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by fredtgreco View Post
    The preacher should speak as a dying man to dying men. That does not mean melodrama, but would anyone speak flippantly, or monotone to a neighbor whose house was on fire? Or to parents whose 5 year old lay dying in a hospital bed? Of course not.

    Passion absolutely has its place in the pulpit.
    Very good way to put it.

    Too many confuse passion with pounding the pulpit or spitting and screaming, but it is not that at all.
    David
    Pastor
    Southern Baptist
    Missouri

    The Cave

  14. #14
    I.M.O. John Piper is by far one of the, if not the,most passionate
    preacher today. Even though I disagree with several of his positions.
    Carson L Allen communicant member
    Trinity Church(O.P.C.)
    Medford, Oregon

  15. #15
    Sincere passion is very important. Spurgeon said earnestness was one of the most important traits of preaching. To the question "how does one come across as earnest?"
    he replied, "Be earnest and you will seem to be earnest".
    [B]Manley Beasley[/B]
    Southern Baptist Convention
    Fayetteville, Arkansas

    [B]Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum (We are beggars. This is true.).--Luther's dying words[/B]

  16. #16
    The preacher should speak as a dying man to dying men. That does not mean melodrama, but would anyone speak flippantly, or monotone to a neighbor whose house was on fire? Or to parents whose 5 year old lay dying in a hospital bed? Of course not.

    Passion absolutely has its place in the pulpit.
    Loved that answer, nice job Fred!
    Adam Leavelle
    Pennsylvania
    Independence Reformed Bible Church

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009098037954

  17. #17
    I think we sometimes need to distinguish between passion and style. I know it's popular with some, but I get really annoyed by the manufactured passion of the stereotypic Black Baptist Preacher. I've literally been in Churches where they shout *all the time*, distorting the speakers, etc. It doesn't matter if the point being made is banal or profound - nothing is emphasized. It's all shouting.

    Preaching should be distinct from a lecture by a college professor. There is an imparting of knowledge that is common to both but, as Fred noted, these are Words of life and we ought to have reverence for them and an earnest desire that they affect others.

    I had one Pastor, who I still love dearly, who was fairly young in the ministry but you always got the sense, when he was preaching, that he was "somewhere else". It's not like he was with the people, striving together with them, in the preaching. It was cold and clinical. It wasn't merely that he was, generally speaking, a kind of "stiff" individual but it was more. I think the Epistles especially bear a mark of concern and love for others. I know that the Holy Spirit doesn't need our help but I think one of the means of keeping the Saints in a posture of listening is that they hear the concern of a man poured out for them and that he really believes the things he's talking about.

    I've done my fair share of teaching and I had a friend quip that she'd seen me cry more than her husband. I really try not to but I'm pretty Irish. I'm a passionate guy - good and bad. I fight for orthodox doctrines with sometimes and imprudent passion because I know how much they mean for men's souls. When I'm reading certain truths or, especially when I'm pouring out the full import of them to others, I can't help being swept up into them and being overwhelmed by them at times. Others express that by raising their voice (I do too) but some start to break down a bit too. If it's manufactured then I think there's no place for it but if it simply is "who you are" and people know enough to see "...this guy really thinks he's a sinner saved by Grace too..." then I think you've come up beside a person and encouraged them to continue to strive together with you.
    Rich
    Ruling Elder, Licentiate, Under Care, Hope of Christ Church (PCA), Northern VA
    Student, New Geneva Theological Seminary

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  18. #18
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    I tend to believe the best preachers are those who believe what they are teaching, they believe the Bible IS the very Word of God and men need to hear it. It won't matter if they speak in a monotone voice or a whisper, their passion and love for God will come through.

    I've heard a few preachers over the years that I was left wondering if they really believe God exists--if one does not believe the Bible to be true or that God is real, they shouldn't be teaching it..
    Bobbi Clark
    Covenant Member
    Pinewood Pres. (PCA) Middleburg

    When I kept Silent, My bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Psalm 32:3

  19. #19
    I'm a fairly sanguine guy. My Scottish side is pretty strong. I cry at movies. I cheer at movies and sporting events. I laugh heartily. I cry when I read books, and not just Where the Red Fern Grows types. I was in tears last night reading a portion of The Death of Death . . . . And, I do become passionate in my preaching and teaching. But, I do believe that preachers must guard against emotionalism. We all have different personalities and that will come through in our preaching. But, if a man is continually removed from his people in a sterile manner as a preacher I would suspect his call.
    'There's nae jouking in the cause of Christ' - James Guthrie

    We shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God's grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible. - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

    Lawrence Underwood, Jr.
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    Deo Vindice

  20. #20
    Anyone who looks for a "sign" about preaching is probably also waiting for God to tell him things and to be "led" while showing a real lack of appreciation for God's law.

    From a layman's perspective, a real power seems to come through in preaching when it seems that the pastor has personally wrestled with the passage, has really been engaged with it. This isn't something that comes through every week, nor can it be manufactured.

    It also seems that the best preaching reflects something of the man who is doing the preaching, just like we can see the differences coming through in Paul's writing vs. John's in the New Testament. God shaped the men, and that influenced how they wrote (in this case preached), but their words were no less of God.

    OK, that's enough from the pew ...
    JWithnell
    Member Bethel OPC
    Virginia
    http://learningyesican.blogspot.com/
    http://bethelpres.com/

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by CarsonLAllen View Post
    I.M.O. John Piper is by far one of the, if not the,most passionate
    preacher today. Even though I disagree with several of his positions.
    I will second Piper. I've never seen him preach in person--only listed to sermons--but his passion still spills over. I don't know how animated he is, but I can tell in his voice that he is indeed worshiping as he speaks.
    Daniel
    Madrid, Spain

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripel View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CarsonLAllen View Post
    I.M.O. John Piper is by far one of the, if not the,most passionate
    preacher today. Even though I disagree with several of his positions.
    I will second Piper. I've never seen him preach in person--only listed to sermons--but his passion still spills over. I don't know how animated he is, but I can tell in his voice that he is indeed worshiping as he speaks.
    I've seen him preach live once (2006 Desiring God National Conference) . . . he's not afraid to get animated when it's called for. You can watch video of him preaching at desiringgod.org or on their YouTube channel.
    Rae W. | Ruling Elder @ Grace Central Presbyterian Church (PCA) | Columbus, OH
    Vintage73

  23. #23
    Imo passion is not necessarily more present in a louder preaching

    the late Martyn Lloyd Jones (I hear him on tape of course) is always calm, and preaches with great peace and humbleness, emanating from his tone of voice, but the Word is proclaimed with such awe and reverence, even unconsciously one starts bowing the head with a sense of fear of God and His Majesty.
    César Proença

    there is no will nor running by which we can prepare the way for our salvation, it is wholly of the Divine Mercy Jean Calvin Institutes II . V. 17

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  24. #24
    Is that conference the one where Mr. Piper really addresses the youth? We have a DVD with that sermon and it is really powerful!
    JWithnell
    Member Bethel OPC
    Virginia
    http://learningyesican.blogspot.com/
    http://bethelpres.com/

  25. While I certainly think that emotion can be overdone, nevertheless there is a very important sense in which we are whole people. We don't check our emotions at the door when we come to worship God. God created our emotions. They are as much a part of us as our intellect. I don't see how it is in any way biblical to preach in an "intellectual" way without also preaching in an emotional way. The Bible would say you are both, and therefore you should preach with both aspects in mind. Just as we have emotions and intellect, we are also preaching to people's heads and their hearts. Of course, I don't believe in a strong bifurcation between head and heart anyway.
    Rev. Lane Keister
    Teaching Elder, PCA, Winnsboro, SC
    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com
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  26. #26
    Passion is displayed differently by different men. The pastor of my old church was a pacer, would get into shouting fits, go off on tangents, get on his soap box, etc. A very good teacher and very solid - I learned a great deal from him. He was genuinely passionate and that connected well with the congregation.

    My current pastor is much more reserved, never "shouts" and basically never shows emotion. He's almost "professorial," delivering the sermon standing still behind the microphone. But he's far from aloof, and his passion is no less evident - just revealed in his love of the Scripture and the richness of God's Word. More externally subtle, but no less real or convincing.
    Mason
    Member, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) - though transferring soon to a church in FL
    Destin, FL

    "Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." - Isaiah 1:18

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by jwithnell View Post
    Is that conference the one where Mr. Piper really addresses the youth? We have a DVD with that sermon and it is really powerful!
    I'm not thinking it's the same one. The conference I was at was really aimed toward post-modern/Emergent thinking. You may be thinking of one of the college conferences (incidentally, called "Passion") that he often speaks at.
    Rae W. | Ruling Elder @ Grace Central Presbyterian Church (PCA) | Columbus, OH
    Vintage73

  28. #28
    I third Piper and would add Paul Washer as a good example as well.
    Adam Leavelle
    Pennsylvania
    Independence Reformed Bible Church

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009098037954

  29. #29
    I agree Adam. Paul Washer's real concern for those he preaches to is very evident.
    Rich
    Ruling Elder, Licentiate, Under Care, Hope of Christ Church (PCA), Northern VA
    Student, New Geneva Theological Seminary

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  30. #30
    and have you heard his short testimony? No matter how many times I hear it I well up each time also realizing that I am so far from where I should be in my thankfulness for salvation.

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbmyVIOLm3Q]YouTube - "Paul Washer's Testimony"[/ame]
    Adam Leavelle
    Pennsylvania
    Independence Reformed Bible Church

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009098037954

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