Top 10 Preaching Mistakes

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by InSlaveryToChrist, Oct 23, 2011.

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  1. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

  2. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    It sounds like I could keep him happy by keeping it simple and passionate. Who needs all of those proof texts, cross references and complex explanations when I can have eye contact and urgency :rolleyes:
  3. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Sounds great. I have a good friend who teaches preaching at a Bible college. He says much the same.
  4. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    This just seems too harsh to me. Maybe you know something about this particular gentleman which leads you to assume he wants no substance with polished delivery, but the items to which you made explicit reference in your response could just as easily be taken from William Perkins' Art of Prophesying. For instance, as to "lecturing" instead of "preaching" (i.e., the manner of delivery), Perkins notes:
    In the exposition of the doctrine in a sermon we ought to be more moderate, but in the exhortation more fervent and vehement. There should be a gravity about the gestures of the body which will in their own way grace the messenger of God. It is appropriate therefore, that the preacher keep the trunk of his body erect and still, while the other parts like the arm, the hand, the face and eyes may express and (as it were) speak the spiritual affections of his heart.

    Scripture provides illustrations of the communicative power of physical actions. The lifting up of the eye and the hand signifies confidence (2 Chron. 6:13, 14; Acts 7:55). The casting down of the eyes indicates sorrow and heaviness (Luke 18:13). As for gestures, we cannot lay down further principles; but here the example of widely respected godly ministers will serve as a guide.
    As to having too many prooftexts, Perkins again agrees:
    Only a few testimonies of Scripture should be used for the proof of the doctrine; sometimes there is need of none.​

    Regarding the quoting of authors and works, Perkins maintains the belief that a minister ought to conceal his art in the pulpit, displaying the fruits of the erudition which he works in his study, but not the erudition itself.
    Regarding simplicity of language, again, Perkins stresses:
    For this reason none of the specialised vocabulary of the arts, nor Greek and Latin phrases, nor odd turns of phrase should be used in the sermon. These distract the minds of those listeners who cannot see the connection between what has been said and what follows. In addition, unusual words hinder rather than help people in their efforts to understand what is being said. And they also tend to draw their minds away from the subject in hand to other things.​

    Examples of agreement could be produced for just about every point in the blog entry. I'm not saying it's a good or comprehensive guide to preaching, nor do I know anything about its author so as to know in what light his comments should be read; but the comments above seem to reflect unfair assumptions about the gentleman if you do not know him either. Again, I'm not saying I think this is a great list. Obviously, coming from a Reformed perspective, I'm going to think there are far more serious errors that many of the above in much preaching (not distinguishing nor rightly applying law and gospel, not emphasizing both the relationship of all doctrine to the work of Christ, not allowing for the role of the Spirit in preaching, too much emphasis upon rhetorical technique, etc); so my point is not to say, "This is a great list!" or to say "Look how orthodox this man is!", but simply to say we perhaps shouldn't assume the worst.
  5. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I find that too much emphasis is put on technique. A sermon is a lecture. It is one way communication, not two way.

    I don't know the man either. However, I don't find this list too helpful. It seems like the drift of his overall advice, on this list, is to make sure the sermon is simple because people are incapable of digesting it, if you do not. The OP asked "what are your thoughts?" and I simply shared my opinion of the list.
  6. AThornquist

    AThornquist Puritan Board Doctor

    Looks like a great list. Even if his overall point is to make the sermon simple so as to be understood, then I would wholeheartedly agree. Men like Luther were great examples of it in preaching. In my opinion, edification happens insofar as one is able to understand and apply what is set before him.
  7. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Your position has some merit if your congregation consists of highly mature Christians and you take steps to keep it that way. I'd recommend a partnership with another congregation to serve those in the area less mature in the faith.
  8. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    As it speaks to the "effective communication" part of the job, it makes excellent points.
  9. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    It's not about simplicity, per se. It's about sticking to the text and following a consistent line of thought. Notice that he's speaking about students learning to preach. Overwhelmingly, they fall into a few bad habits.

    1. Cramming. Not so much everything they know about the Bible, but some concept from some book they just read. Often in Bible college or seminary, I could tell from the sermon that the student preacher had just been reading Piper or Keller. The point of every passage was "God is most satisfied in us when we are most satisfied in him" or "We are more sinful ... but more loved..." Really, this is making the sermon autobiographical.

    2. Rehashing class notes. All the audience-oriented points follow here. The student talks as if he were talking to theological students studying in a particular class. Explanation falls by the wayside. Pedantic points abound. Application is non-existent. Really, this is to convince the audience that the speaker is smart.

    3. Cross-referencing. The student looks up a few words in the passage, finds them in his Strong's Concordance, and proceeds to read through lists of verses while giving comments. This is not exegesis. It leads to what the author here calls "spraying." You say a lot of loosely-associated things about a group of words, but the congregation does not gain any better understanding of the primary passage.

    So, I find the list very apt. Most handbooks on preaching contain very similar advice. Experienced preachers can bend these rules; they know what they're doing. Students don't. They need clear guidance, especially about structure.
  10. Joseph Scibbe

    Joseph Scibbe Puritan Board Junior

    I feel like the list was perfect for our generation. One of the problems I have seen in the resurgence of Calvinistic thought is over academic-ization. I think it is great when a Pastor is a scholar of the Word, but his people are not. In the way God "talks down" to us in the Bible, so a Pastor ought to do so from the Bible (making complex truths easier to understand).
  11. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Good list. That covers most of the common problems.
  12. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    My emotions are completely mixed on this one. I agree with him on the list, and at the same time, when I preached, I don't like to be stuck on a format. If the Lord leads me to read more verses in one sermon than the next, that's the Lord speaking. And other times, I can agree with what he is saying.
  13. Weston Stoler

    Weston Stoler Puritan Board Sophomore

    I went to a non-denom church for a while who were reformed and the pastor said he thought that talking down to the congregation was insulting to their intelligence. He said he taught up instead that he would explain big theological thoughts and high academic truths but then share it with clarity and precision so the common layman could understand it. I love this approach.
  14. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    There's what I am talking about!!!!
  15. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    No, there's something two-way about preaching... even if it's just the congregation responding with an "amen." The preacher needs to be emotionally engaged with what he's saying.
  16. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Agreed. A sermon is not a lecture. Someone who speaks while thinking this is not a preacher.
  17. Covenant Joel

    Covenant Joel Puritan Board Sophomore

    Along these same lines is some helpful advice I found in a booklet given me entitled "Preaching that Gets Through" by Stuart Olyott:

    From my blog: Upside Down Preaching |
  18. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I disagree. If a sermon is prepared to be delivered, why would it change if there are 10 people quietly digesting the material or 100 people saying AMEN? Isn't that playing the crowd/emotionalism?
  19. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    The Westminster Larger Catechism disagrees.

  20. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior


    I think you're hearing something I'm not saying. All I'm saying is that the Word should have an effect on the one preaching (including upon his emotions), and that will inevitably show up when he preaches. Now, that will show up in a different manner, depending on the preacher, but preaching is not lecturing. Moreover, it is not only one-way communication. Yes, the teaching flows from preacher to congregation, but the congregation engages with the text and with the preacher. One biblical example of this is Israel's response of "Amen! Amen!" at the reading of the law in Nehemiah 8. (Rev. Glaser's mention of the duties required of those who hear in WLC 160 is pertinent as well.)

    There's also a difference between interacting with one's congregation and "playing to the crowd," as there is between showing emotion while one preaches and emotionalism. A fine line sometimes, but it's there nonetheless.
  21. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This is the offense that I'm trying to stay clear of. Maybe my experience, which was not a part of the Reformed community, is why I'm hypersensitive to anyone who seems to play the crowd. In the R community, I would expect less , if not none, of this. However, some people think new innovations will attract more people.

    As for WLC160, it appears that the hearer is to respond by future actions that are fruit of their combined instruction from the word, and Spirit's acting, upon them. A stirred up crowd is not necessarily evidence of that. I would suggest that we wait and see the fruit of the hearer's life after the Sunday they receive instruction.

    I recall a parable about someone who said yes, and didn't do it compared to someone who squawked a little, but did it. In the end, who obeyed? That's my drift here.
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