When Time magazine's editors declared T.D. Jakes the best preacher in America, we wondered whether the nation's preachers would agree. You did, in part. But some of you also took us to task for posing the question.
Time acknowledged Billy Graham as the longstanding holder of this distinction when they asked over a photo of Jakes, "Is this man the next Billy Graham?" Jakes and Graham are the only two evangelists who could pack out the Georgia Dome, which seats 79,000, they said.
But who would preachers say is heir apparent to the title Most Effective Preacher?
We first asked the question of you, the recipients of our e- newsletter. You nominated almost 100 preachers. Then we posted the top ten on our Web site for another balloting. The result was a tie: T.D. Jakes and Chuck Swindoll each received 23 percent of the vote.
Two very different preachers. What do they have in common? Time cited Jakes's delivery and his skillful handling of Scripture: "He purrs like Isaac Hayes and screams like Jay Hawkins … And however leisurely Jakes's presentation may seem, each sermon eventually reveals itself as perfectly calibrated and balanced, cohering into an often exquisite extended metaphor."
Our readers appreciated exegesis and delivery in both Jakes and Swindoll, plus a tasteful measure of self-disclosure.
"When Swindoll speaks, you know he is conveying the word of God with the respect, dignity, and integrity it deserves," says Rob Pochek of Nashville, Illinois. "He communicates with a tremendous openness about his own shortcomings. Rather than Chuck preaching to us, we listen to the Word preaching to and through Chuck."
Valerie McDowell of Lanham, Maryland, says much the same about Jakes. "T.D. Jakes hits the areas America loves to keep secret: family problems, finances, children, marriage, sex. He doesn't pretend to have been perfect all his life, but his ability to talk about lack of faith at times keeps it real for those who hear the message."
The Contest That's No Contest We intentionally asked about "effective" preaching, trying to get at what causes some communicators to connect especially well with their listeners. The dozen top nominees were all prominent pastors and writers, most having radio or TV shows. That wasn't surprising. What did surprise us was the number of readers took us to task over the "contest."
Rob Freeborough of Peoria, Illinois, writes: "I don't think God cares who is the best preacher. I think he cares much more about whether we are maximizing the unique gifts, abilities, and scriptural insights he has given us."
And Dan Kimball of Santa Cruz, California, is concerned that people are getting the wrong message. "Preaching is only one, small part of being a pastor. Could we subtly be teaching church attenders not how to feed themselves from the Word of God, but to become dependent on the 'greatest' preachers?"
Steve Adams of Great Village, Nova Scotia, says the great ones are, despite modern technology, undiscovered. "The greatest preachers of our day are scattered on the front lines, laying down their lives in intelligent, compassionate, and sacrificial service to Christ and those he treasures."
And while we are indebted to the high profile preachers for setting the bar, we appreciate the definition submitted by Daniel Crawford of Worland, Wyoming:
"The best preacher is the pastor of a small church who in season and out of season preaches the Word of God with conviction, passion, and determination, who relishes the challenge of interpreting difficult texts, who exposes his/her congregation to the whole of Scripture, not just a few favorite passages, and whose study of and love from the Word is reflected in the was he/she responds to the many situations and circumstances of daily life."
That's effective preaching.
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