May 21, 2013

Is It Really About Him, or Is It Mostly About Me?

In a chapter entitled “Less Joe, More Jesus,” Joe Stowell reminds us that it’s easy to become preoccupied with ourselves as preachers.

Preaching has a way of sucking us down into the bog of To whom am I preaching? Will they like me? Will they listen? That’s the pre-agony. The post-agony is Did I do well? Did I get my point across? Oh, I should have said it this way; I should have said it that way.

If we’re not careful, preaching becomes all about the preacher. (in The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching, 313, emphasis mine)

Though we say “It’s all about Jesus,” our answers to these questions may reveal that it’s mostly about us. Now, there’s certainly nothing inherently or necessarily wrong with asking questions like “To whom am I preaching? Will they like me? Will they listen?” and so on. Those are natural questions to ask going into any speaking situation. Audience analysis and exegesis is an important part of the sermon construction process. But if my focus and priority in preaching is primarily on how I am perceived or how I will be received by the listener, I am already bent in the wrong direction.

My bent as a preacher must be that of John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Our egocentricity must give way to a Christocentricity. Instead of highlighting the big “I” as we evaluate our preaching, we must

concentrate on issues like: Did I lift Jesus up? What would he have thought about my sermon? Did my listeners see him more clearly? Do they find him more compelling because of my sermon? Did I represent him and his calling in our lives in a winsome and yet authoritative way. (313-314)

So one of the ways we know if our preaching is ultimately about him or about us is by the preliminary questions we ask as we look forward to a sermon and by the evaluation questions we ask as we look back on a sermon. Are they predominately “I”-centered questions or “him”-centered questions? If I’m honest, I think I’ll find that the kinds of questions that preoccupy my mind reveal whether my preaching is really all about him or mostly about me.