To Preach Yourself Or To Not Preach Yourself

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servantofmosthigh

Puritan Board Freshman
OK, here's a question for everyone:

Do you like it when the pastor/preacher, as part of his exposition of Scripture, shares some personal testimonies of his own life as application (e.g. Alistair Begg)? Or do you think the pulpit should be purely about "God" and not about "the pastor" (e.g. R.C. Sproul)?

I preach in the Sproul-style where I give very little to almost no personal testimonies about myself and preach solely God's word. I had one woman thank me for doing that, but then the next day, I had another woman criticize my preaching style because she didn't just want to know the truth of Scripture, but wanted to hear how it fleshed out in my own life.

What are your thoughts?
 

danmpem

Puritan Board Junior
I like the scripture-only stuff to be preached for 99.99% of the time. That way when the pastor does make reference to his life, then it is a lot more meaningful and impactful (e.g. Steve Lawson).
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I do not like humor in the sermon. a little is ok but some use it way to much and I also do not like long personal anecdotes.
 

SueS

Puritan Board Freshman
Our pastor reveals very little of his personal life from the pulpit - in our former church the man in control was always going on and on about his life - once he spent 25 minutes of precious sermon time regaling us with an account of visiting his extended family in southern West Virginia. There was much about him and his agenda - very little about Jesus Christ.
 

ChristopherPaul

Puritan Board Senior
There is a conviction within Reformed pulpits that I was not aware of until I moved to NC and traveled around to different churches around the country last summer.

My pastor is convicted to only read and explain the text. He rarely adds any application and feels the Holy Spirit will apply the text to those who hear. Some in my church really appreciate his style and other prefer more of a Puritan Style that includes application.

Then there are some pulpits where no emotion is included at all (i.e. monotone words only) in order to not distract from the preached word.

In many cases it is not so much a preference but a conviction of the Minister.
 

Zadok

Puritan Board Freshman
Correct me if I am wrong here .. in the question it is implied that most/all the application is made in connection with the Pastor's own life and walk. And if this is so, the question becomes slightly different .. should we have application with or without reference to the pastor's life and walk.

Firstly, I would say that I am not at all in favour of sermons that make no application, under the guise that the Holy Spirit will work it out. It is the job of the preacher to apply the teaching of Scriptures to the heart of his hearers. Generally speaking Christians are lazy thinkers and the notion that they will take something and work out the implications at home is just not realistic.

As to the point raised about personal references by the Pastor, I would agree that these should be kept to the bare minimum and only introduced if the man is really struggling to find an application without reference to a particular incident in his life.

BTW I have known very good preachers include appropriate personal references without it detracting in the slightest from the text under consideration, and so the inference in the question that all personal references must detract in some way from the considerations of God or His word is built on a false premise.
 

servantofmosthigh

Puritan Board Freshman
Must it be either/or? Can it not be both/and? :)

Well, to have personal testimony in the pulpit is the both/and. Alistair Begg does both expository preaching of the text AND shares personal testimonies. But R.C. Sproul ONLY does expository preaching of the text. So the question is: should personal testimonies be given behind the pulpit or not? Should it be "both/and" or "not at all?" My preaching style is the "not at all."
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
My pastor is convicted to only read and explain the text. He rarely adds any application and feels the Holy Spirit will apply the text to those who hear. Some in my church really appreciate his style and other prefer more of a Puritan Style that includes application.

Then there are some pulpits where no emotion is included at all (i.e. monotone words only) in order to not distract from the preached word.

While I believe most of the sermon should be explaining the text, I think it is valuable for the pastor to use sermon illustrations, and on the occasion (if it will help to clarify the text) to use examples from his personal life. Look at the sermons of Jesus; He used illustrations and stories all the time. Paul also used personal examples.

The best sermons I have heard are those which focus on explaining the Scripture, but throw in examples when they help make a point more clear.
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
There is a conviction within Reformed pulpits that I was not aware of until I moved to NC and traveled around to different churches around the country last summer.

My pastor is convicted to only read and explain the text. He rarely adds any application and feels the Holy Spirit will apply the text to those who hear. Some in my church really appreciate his style and other prefer more of a Puritan Style that includes application.

Then there are some pulpits where no emotion is included at all (i.e. monotone words only) in order to not distract from the preached word.
In many cases it is not so much a preference but a conviction of the Minister.

Our congregation is blessed to have as a member a fill in preacher who preaches like this. He is not a pastor but and ordained minister who makes his living as a trial laywer. His sermons display no emotion. However they are so well planned out displaying logic and conviction. When he preaches you could hear a pin drop, the mind does not wander away from his argument. His legal training and trial experience offer a unique gift that makes him an effective preacher. Half the congregation was left in tears one Sunday(probably the Christians:lol:) after he preached on the Uzza account. His thesis was that one cannot aprehend grace until God's right judgment and wrath is embraced. Anyway, this would be my favorite style but the gift seems to be rare.
 

ChristopherPaul

Puritan Board Senior
There is a conviction within Reformed pulpits that I was not aware of until I moved to NC and traveled around to different churches around the country last summer.

My pastor is convicted to only read and explain the text. He rarely adds any application and feels the Holy Spirit will apply the text to those who hear. Some in my church really appreciate his style and other prefer more of a Puritan Style that includes application.

Then there are some pulpits where no emotion is included at all (i.e. monotone words only) in order to not distract from the preached word.
In many cases it is not so much a preference but a conviction of the Minister.

Our congregation is blessed to have as a member a fill in preacher who preaches like this. He is not a pastor but and ordained minister who makes his living as a trial laywer. His sermons display no emotion. However they are so well planned out displaying logic and conviction. When he preaches you could hear a pin drop, the mind does not wander away from his argument. His legal training and trial experience offer a unique gift that makes him an effective preacher. Half the congregation was left in tears one Sunday(probably the Christians:lol:) after he preached on the Uzza account. His thesis was that one cannot aprehend grace until God's right judgment and wrath is embraced. Anyway, this would be my favorite style but the gift seems to be rare.

I have heard that this was the manner in which Jonathan Edwards delivered is infamous sermon, Sinners in the hands of an Angry God.

It is not the most popular style, but I can see how some ministers can have this conviction. The word of God will be effective, not their public speaking skills.

We can infer from the scriptures that even the Apostle Paul was not the most powerful public speaker. He was criticized for being more mighty in letter than in person and you gotta be pretty dry if one of your listeners falls asleep to the point they fall out of a window to their death (!). :)

So they may have a point.
 

ChristopherPaul

Puritan Board Senior
My pastor is convicted to only read and explain the text. He rarely adds any application and feels the Holy Spirit will apply the text to those who hear. Some in my church really appreciate his style and other prefer more of a Puritan Style that includes application.

Then there are some pulpits where no emotion is included at all (i.e. monotone words only) in order to not distract from the preached word.

While I believe most of the sermon should be explaining the text, I think it is valuable for the pastor to use sermon illustrations, and on the occasion (if it will help to clarify the text) to use examples from his personal life. Look at the sermons of Jesus; He used illustrations and stories all the time. Paul also used personal examples.

The best sermons I have heard are those which focus on explaining the Scripture, but throw in examples when they help make a point more clear.

Your "best" and my "best" may be two different things. Personally I agree with you and I prefer the Puritan style over the Redemptive Historical that does not include application. It takes much more work on my part as the listener to follow the sermon with no application than it does when the preacher just goes ahead and rips my soul to shreds and revives me with the gospel week after week. But then again I think we should not be afraid to "work" at hearing a sermon so much.

Bottom line is that each preacher does or perhaps should have a conviction where to preach any other way would be a violation of conscience. In my case my Pastor would be sinning if he preached in any other way. And many in the congregation appreciate his style where only scripture is explained and nothing else is added or taken away.

I find I like the Al Martin approach, but that may just be due to the many years I was entertained at the seeker churches where I could sit back with my Starbucks and turn my brain off for 20 minutes while the "Pastor" (motivational Speaker) did his act. That was one extreme where The Ben Stein ("Bueller?") voiced, preached word only, approach is the other extreme.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Personal anecdotes or self-references are stylistic but they should never detract from the God-centric approach to preaching. Here is the one who is mature in his preaching. Let him employ wisdom.
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
My pastor is convicted to only read and explain the text. He rarely adds any application and feels the Holy Spirit will apply the text to those who hear. Some in my church really appreciate his style and other prefer more of a Puritan Style that includes application.

Then there are some pulpits where no emotion is included at all (i.e. monotone words only) in order to not distract from the preached word.

While I believe most of the sermon should be explaining the text, I think it is valuable for the pastor to use sermon illustrations, and on the occasion (if it will help to clarify the text) to use examples from his personal life. Look at the sermons of Jesus; He used illustrations and stories all the time. Paul also used personal examples.

The best sermons I have heard are those which focus on explaining the Scripture, but throw in examples when they help make a point more clear.

Your "best" and my "best" may be two different things. Personally I agree with you and I prefer the Puritan style over the Redemptive Historical that does not include application. It takes much more work on my part as the listener to follow the sermon with no application than it does when the preacher just goes ahead and rips my soul to shreds and revives me with the gospel week after week. But then again I think we should not be afraid to "work" at hearing a sermon so much.

Bottom line is that each preacher does or perhaps should have a conviction where to preach any other way would be a violation of conscience. In my case my Pastor would be sinning if he preached in any other way. And many in the congregation appreciate his style where only scripture is explained and nothing else is added or taken away.

I find I like the Al Martin approach, but that may just be due to the many years I was entertained at the seeker churches where I could sit back with my Starbucks and turn my brain off for 20 minutes while the "Pastor" (motivational Speaker) did his act. That was one extreme where The Ben Stein ("Bueller?") voiced, preached word only, approach is the other extreme.

You make some good points. I don't have any problem sitting under a pastor who preaches with no illustrations, but I have found that I remember better the points made which have been driven home by practical application. My children remember them better, as well, and that may be my bias.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Personally, I prefer illustrations pulled from life in general, no matter what period of history. I don't prefer illustrations from the pastor's own life unless it is so directly to the point that it's like a hammer. Of course, this should be the case with any illustration.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Right; from Paul's letters that are read in public we catch a glimpse of his public and sometimes private life.

However the warning not to create factions (1 Corinthians 1:12-13) and the positive injunction to preach Christ and Him crucified (the heart of the gospel) should make ministers reticent to refer to themselves from the pulpit.

For myself, it is a rare occasion indeed.
 

JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
Illustrations are useful. Personal ones should be kept minimal - pastors are not there to bare their souls as though the pulpit was some kind of confessional. Also, not there to go on and on about what great sinners they are - (although they are of course) - all these things detract from God's glory. As with all parts of worship, whether formal or informal, the less of 'me' there is, the better.

Personally, I find that if I use something personal I can become over-emotional. And that doesn't do anyone any good - we're not there to manipulate people's emotions.

J
 

jambo

Puritan Board Senior
Like any illustration it should help to clarify a point and at the end people should remember not so much the illustration but the point the illustration was making. It should also be an illustration appropriate for the occasion. Similarly if a personal experience of the preacher is used to illustrate a point it should likewise be appropriate. A preacher is not just a voice but a person and people can identify and be helped when they hear how the preacher has learned a lesson, dealt with a situation etc. Personal illustrations that are used to focus on the preacher rather than the the preachers Lord are a bit like the hyopcrites who made a show of fasting or giving alms in public: they have already received their reward (Mt 6.2)


I have always noticed that at times when you see that some in the congregation are not with you, when you give a personal illustration every eye is upon you. I am not talking about anything emotional or dramatic but people are interested in how
 
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