May 13, 2013

You’re Invited to a Wedding!

There’s a wedding that should be taking place in every church on every Sunday from every pulpit. It’s the wedding of biblical content and passionate delivery.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency for only one party to show up for the preaching event.

  1. Biblical content only sermons. On the one hand, there are preachers who are thoroughly biblical but painfully boring.
  2. Passionate delivery only sermons. On the other hand, there are preachers who are wonderfully engaging but woefully unbiblical (or nonbiblical).

In a recent interview with Preaching Today, Hershael York rightly argues that the two should be married not separated.

Both extremes, of course, need to be addressed, but let me target those who are gulity of preaching “biblical content only sermons” and who don’t put much stock into delivery concerns.

Now I will frankly admit that I am sympathetic to this tendency, because whatever else a preacher does he must say what God said. However, a commitment to biblical exposition and biblical faithfulness in what is said need not exclude a concern for how it is said.

As York reminds us,

Of course the text is primary, but, frankly, no matter how well you know the text, if you’re putting people to sleep, they’re not hearing it anyway.

Russell Moore puts it this way:

Delivery matters because you can falsify a statement simply by the way you say it. You can confuse people with your arguments by the way you argue. Boring preaching can actually enable your listeners to remain in the very illusions you’re trying to destroy. Working on your delivery is not about being a peddler of the Word of God; it’s about removing the distraction that comes from boring preachers. Sometimes, when we hear Paul’s warning about people with itching ears who “will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” (2 Tim 4:3) we assume that they must be piling up really skillful orators. So, we conclude, it must be more spiritual to come to the pulpit and say, “Well, here we are continuing our 35th week in our series of Philippians chapter one, verse two, part A. Here it is, let’s move on through this.” No! . . .

If you’re charged with adrenaline for the gospel, and with compassion for people held captive by the principalities and powers, and if you know that the voice of Jesus is what drives back the illusions and powers of satanic darkness, and that people hear the voice of Jesus when a text of Scripture is explained clearly, then you can’t help preach with a Galilean accent. (“This Is War: Expository Exorcism,” a chapter in A Guide to Expository Ministry, 36, emphasis mine)

So I invite you to a very important wedding–the wedding of “solid exegesis with passionate delivery.”