When leaving church, most people shake the preacher’s hand and say, “Good sermon.” What do they mean? Do they mean, “You preached about Jesus in a way that’s going to change my daily life”? Not likely. What they probably mean is, “You put on a good show,” “You kept my attention,” or “You entertained me with the gospel.” This betrays a harmful trend that runs deeply in modern preaching.
A Harmful Trend
Preachers are tempted to rely solely on their public speaking abilities to write and preach a sermon. Sadly, many preachers are just public speakers and many sermons are just religious speeches. Our goal as preachers is not to impress people with our stage presence but to impact them with our spiritual power.
How To Be a Public Speaker in the Pulpit
This reliance upon stage presence rather than spiritual power affects how a preacher prepares his sermon. Each preacher develops his own routine for researching, writing, and practicing his sermon. However, he often leaves out the most crucial elements of prayer and asking the Holy Spirit how He wants to use the sermon to change peoples’ lives.
It also affects how a preacher equips others to preach. Rather than looking for someone who is particularly sensitive to the Holy Spirit, he looks for someone with a natural talent for public speaking. He assumes that a good public speaker will be a good preacher and a poor public speaker will be a poor preacher. And as a result, he hones their public speaking skills instead of their awareness of the Holy Spirit.
How To Be More Than a Public Speaker in the Pulpit
Jesus’ most powerful spokesmen relied on the Holy Spirit’s power rather than their ability to speak publicly. Peter and John amazed the Jewish religious leaders with their preaching because “they were unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). They never took Homiletics! Paul was highly educated but he depended on the Spirit’s power, not his formal training (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 1 Thess. 1:5)
How can you be more than a public speaker in the pulpit? By relying on the Holy Spirit’s ability to change lives rather than your ability to preach a sermon. A true preacher is more than a public speaker; he is an agent of the Holy Spirit’s transforming power. As you prepare, constantly ask the Holy Spirit how He wants to use your sermon to make your people more like Jesus.
So how important is public speaking? Should preachers strive to become better public speakers? This depends on your congregation. Try to speak in a way that makes sense to your people. It’s more important to relate to your audience than to be “good” at public speaking. You may resist this thinking. After all, don’t people expect us to be polished and professional? It’s true that poor public speaking is a stumbling block to many churches. But it’s also true that good public speaking is a stumbling block to many preachers.
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