Frankly, a lot of vague pomposity rises from many pulpits just before Sunday dinner. The speakers would be hard put if they were required to give a clear purpose for any particular sermon, and even harder put to show any results from it. A business never advertises just because it is supposed to; it periodically evaluates its advertising to see if its efforts are producing. I propose that the preacher evaluate his preaching.

The old ideal of the preacher’s being “hidden behind the cross” is, I’m afraid, seldom achieved. Up there in the pulpit he is on display before everyone; it is difficult to ignore the tone of his voice, color of his tie, condition of his hair, formal or informal attitude toward worship. The problem then becomes simply one of determining how much these factors help or hinder the worship service. Regardless of its importance, the message will accomplish nothing if the preacher stands in its way.

An effective preaching ministry must come from a sharp analysis of the congregation’s needs and capabilities. Has the church a core of well-grounded leadership? Has it a wide field of opportunity? If so, then evangelism is undoubtedly a definite need. Is it an old-line church in an area already largely enlisted in some church or churches? Then perhaps Bible study and/or missions is the greatest need. Is the church on the fringe of a changing racial and/or economic situation? Then Christian understanding may be especially called for. These are but samples of the many possible situations. No pastor will preach effectively until he knows clearly just what his church’s needs are.

But more than this is necessary. The pastor must also know his people’s ability to understand their own needs. I believe that it was Hyman Appleman ...

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