Passion in the pulpit

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by Grafted In, Jan 8, 2009.

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  1. Grafted In

    Grafted In Puritan Board Freshman

    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?
  2. Presbyterian Deacon

    Presbyterian Deacon Puritan Board Graduate

    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.
  3. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    There is a difference between "passion" in the acting sense and "sincerity" and "passion" in the preaching sense.
  4. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    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.
  5. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    Sometimes I'm passionate, sometimes I'm not. That's reality.
  6. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    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... :D

    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.
  7. Theognome

    Theognome Burrito Bill

    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.

  8. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

  9. Presbyterian Deacon

    Presbyterian Deacon Puritan Board Graduate

    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.
  10. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Thanks, Sterling.
  11. Pilgrim72

    Pilgrim72 Puritan Board Junior

    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.
  12. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    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.)
  13. PastorSBC

    PastorSBC Puritan Board Freshman

    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.
  14. CarsonLAllen

    CarsonLAllen Puritan Board Freshman

    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.
  15. ManleyBeasley

    ManleyBeasley Puritan Board Junior

    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".:)
  16. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    Loved that answer, nice job Fred!
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    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.
  18. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor

    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..
  19. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    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.
  20. jwithnell

    jwithnell Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    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 ...
  21. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    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 worshipping as he speaks.
  22. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    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 or on their YouTube channel.
  23. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

    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.
  24. jwithnell

    jwithnell Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Is that conference the one where Mr. Piper really addresses the youth? We have a DVD with that sermon and it is really powerful!
  25. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    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.
  26. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    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.
  27. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    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.
  28. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    I third Piper and would add Paul Washer as a good example as well.
  29. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I agree Adam. Paul Washer's real concern for those he preaches to is very evident.
  30. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    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=]YouTube - "Paul Washer's Testimony"[/ame]
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