25 October 2013

True Preaching

In his wonderful book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (p. 145), Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City quotes E. M. Bounds, the Methodist from Missouri who has helped us all on the subject of prayer.

A word in season to those of us figuring out how to preach.
Among the things that hinder spiritual results, fine preaching must have place among the first.
Fine preaching is that kind of preaching where the force of the preacher is expended to make the sermon great in thought, tasteful as a work of art, perfect as a scholarly production, complete in rhetorical finish, and fine in its pleasing and popular force.

In true preaching, the sermon proceeds out of the man. It is part of him, flowing out of his life.
--E. M. Bounds, Powerful and Prayerful Pulpits (Baker, 1993), 55


Aletheia said...


Unknown said...

'In true preaching, the sermon proceeds out of the man. It is part of him, flowing out of his life.'

This is absolutely true, Dane.

Great preachers over the centuries were always both Spirit-filled and lived out what they preached. There was no difference between the man on the pulpit and the husband at home. Such a life springs from Christ's life pouring itself out of the preacher's heart onto all those who listen to him. Indeed, it is a work of art which he presents. Nonetheless, I wonder what Paul would have thought about completeness 'in rhetorical finish' and fineness 'in its pleasing and popular force', since he said,

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Cor 2:1-5 ESV)

Why did Paul say that he knew nothing but Christ crucified? Sometimes people tend to think that they ought to preach the cross and nothing else. But what Paul meant was that he was quasi emptied inside so that God - through His Spirit - could put into his heart and mind whatever He wished. It is always the power of God's Spirit which reaches human hearts through preaching. Often times, particularly when people are contrite in spirit and broken-hearted, God gives grace through the preacher; those words then are actually pleasing to the ear, too. However, in case there are religious hypocrites who listen to such a preacher, God's Spirit will rather fill the preacher with a harsh and even mocking message in order to bring them to repentance (cf. Jesus’ words in Mt 23:13-39 for example).

In order to make a long story shorter, I'd like to point to the neglected importance of prayer which enables us to speak directly from God's heart.
Regarding this, the Lord recently urged me to write and post an exhortation in form of a poem on Tullian Tchividjian's blog (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2014/01/14/papa-please-preach/?comments#comments).

Let me conclude with wishing you and your wife, your three boys, and your newly born daughter EVERY blessing of God!

Susanne from Bavaria