The Archbishop of Canterbury
and English actor Thomas Betterton were talking one day. The Archbishop
asked Thomas: “Why do you actors seem to make such impressions
upon your audiences, while we preachers frequently leave our congregations
cold?” Thomas responded, “Actors speak of things imaginary
as if they were real, while you preachers too often speak of things
real as if they were imaginary.”
This conversation reminds us that the quality often missing in
preaching today is PASSION. I am reminded of the oft told joke
of a little boy who went to the church with his father and noticed
for the first time the plaque with names on it in the foyer. He
asked who these people were. “They are the ones who died
in the service,” the pastor/father explained. “Which
one?” asked the boy, “The 8:30 service or the 11:00
service!” Many are dying in our services because of a lack
of passion in our preaching. We speak real things as if they were
So how can we recover our passion for preaching?
The place to begin is to remember.
Do you remember why we preach? When we began in the ministry,
it was not a human endeavor to which we aspired. It was something
to which we were called.
Do you remember your call to the ministry? Do you remember the
thrill of preaching when you first began? When your family commended
you? When the sweet little ladies at church called you “the
next Billy Graham?”
Do you remember a time when God blessed your sermon in spite of
you? Relive that experience in your mind. Remember that God has
chosen to save the world through “the foolishness of preaching.”
As in any other endeavor, we can allow the routines of preparation
to desensitize us to what we are doing. Having remembered why
we preach and how God has worked through our preaching in the
past, we need to retool for the task through a continuous study
of our craft.
Read some of the classic books on preaching over the last couple
of decades like Eugene Lowry’s book, The Sermon, or Paul
Scott Wilson’s book, The Practice of Preaching. Look again
at Thomas Long’s books on preaching: The Witness of Preaching,
The Senses of Preaching, or Preaching and the Literary Forms of
the Bible. Spend some time in Michael J. Quicke’s outstanding
book, 360 Degree Preaching. Listen to tapes of outstanding preachers.
Attend a seminar on preaching. Find a tape by Fred Craddock on
In his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen
Covey challenges us to “sharpen the saw.” His advice
goes for the preacher as well. Preaching is a craft we must continue
to develop through our entire ministry.
We need to break out of the box into which we often take up residence
by trying new approaches to preaching and experimenting with new
Let me insert this word of caution: don’t get caught up
in “the form of the week,” trying a different form
everything you preach.
And let me also insert this word of warning: for many people,
when you change the form you are changing the content.
Keeping that word of caution and that word of warning in mind,
we are safe to break out of the box occasionally with a different
style of preaching. Try two or three sermons in which you simply
do a verse by verse exposition. If you are a deductive preacher,
try the inductive style. If you approach is usually propositional,
try a story sermon on one of the parables. Variety will not only
spark the attention of your people; it will also generate a new
burst of creativity within you.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Although I am less than the
least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach
to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8).
That grace has also been given to us. With passion, we must preach
“the unsearchable riches of Christ.”