The Ten Deadly Sins of Preaching
John Ortberg's insights from the National Pastors Convention

Monday was a great day to leave Chicago. The wind-chill was thirty degrees below zero and the Bears had just lost the Super Bowl. This week I'm in sunny San Diego for the National Pastors Convention. Although the main sessions don't start until later today, on Tuesday I attended a five hour "Critical Concerns" course on preaching.

John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, CA, and the author of numerous books with really long titles, presented about preparing the soul to preach. His focus was not simply getting spiritually juiced for Sunday morning, but rather becoming the kind of person that preaching flows out of that pleases God. It was really about character formation.

Part of Ortberg's discussion included a list of the ten deadly sins of preaching. (John said he originally intended to create a list of seven deadly sins, but preaching offered so many temptations that he had to expand the list.)

1. The temptation to be inauthentic

We want to present an image to others that makes us appear more holy, intelligent, or godly than we actually are. In the end this is a foolish pursuit because the truth of who we are will always leak out.

2. The temptation to live for recognition

After finishing a sermon the question that runs through most of our minds is, did they like it? But we need to learn to root our identity in something other than applause. Ortberg cited Dallas Willard's ability to present his material and give no thought to people's reactions. He's like a child who releases a helium balloon. He says what God's given him to say, and simply lets it go.

3. The temptation to live in fear

What if I fail? That question plagues many pastors. But there is a difference between failing at something and being a failure. You are not a failure. Again, our identity must been hidden in Christ and not our accomplishments.

4. The temptation to compare

With the radio, television, and the internet our generation faces this temptation more than any previous generation. Our culture of celebrity pastors causes us to compare ourselves to others. This does nothing good for the soul.

5. The temptation to exaggerate

This seems closely linked to temptation number one. Overstating facts is how we often try to manage our image and appear better than we are. John also linked this to plagiarism - passing someone else's story, sermon, or idea off as our own to win approval.

6. The temptation to feel chronically inadequate

(I couldn't write fast enough to take notes on this point. Does that make me an inadequate blogger?)

February 07, 2007