“If Protestantism ever dies with a dagger in its back, the dagger will be the Protestant sermon.” So quotes Donald Miller, a New Testament professor, from an unknown critic of preaching in The Way to Biblical Preaching (Abingdon Press, 1957, p. 7).
Why such critical words?
Miller finds in the contempt some preachers hold for the task of preaching one reason for its low fortune today. In his book Fire in Thy Mouth, he excerpts a letter written by a ministerial student: “I consider preaching as a necessary evil. I shall do as much of it as my position demands in order to qualify for the other more important tasks on which my heart is set. But I could well wish to avoid preaching almost entirely” (Fire in Thy Mouth, Abingdon Press, 1954, p. 14). The sad fact is that many otherwise capable preachers hold such convictions about preaching. The world’s disdain for the preaching of the pulpit is evidence of the modern evaluation of preaching.
The “clown complex” found in some ministers also tends to cheapen preaching. Because rhetoricians, statesmen, politicians, salesmen, and preachers have known for centuries that humor is a devastatingly effective weapon, some men have elevated humor to first importance among homiletical devices. Dr. Ellis A. Fuller, the late president of Southern Baptist Seminary, appealed to his students to refrain from playing the fool, the jester, and instead to live the role for which they were divinely commissioned.
The major question to be faced by some ministers, as they rise in the morning, is ‘who am I today?,” as Pierce Harris noted in the Atlanta Constitution:
The modern preacher has to make as many visits as a country doctor, shake as many hands as a politician, prepare as many briefs as a lawyer, see ...1
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