Beware The Vices Of Preaching!

Let’s be difficult, preacher-brothers! Your tart, if paradoxical, rejoinder is, “That’s easy.” But perhaps we are not thinking of the same thing. What is harder than to catch ourselves in those pulpit vices that mar our preaching? “Be willing to ‘unlearn,’ and especially to cure yourself of noticeable faults,” urged Dr. James Black in The Mystery of Preaching.

Easy? One wonders if the man who says it has seriously tried.

Our inventory of these “noticeable faults” will be restricted to those that fall under the head of sermon delivery. Perhaps another time we can tackle those which are linked more particularly with the preacher’s personality or with the organization of the sermon.

Chief among the mischief-makers are, quite obviously, the Speech Culprits.

1. Poor volume control. Speaking too softly is an imposition on the courtesy of the hearers, while speaking too loudly is an affront to their dignity. The aim should be (assuming normal hearing) to make every person present hear every word uttered. Experienced speakers have found it helpful, when speaking to a large congregation in an assembly room to which they are unaccustomed, to fix attention on some person among those farthest away from the pulpit and so address him that he will hear without strain. The opposite of “too soft” is just plain “too loud.” “Scream no more” was John Wesley’s pithy, peremptory counsel to one of his younger preachers. Few preachers worth their salt can proclaim the Gospel without an elevation of voice, but this scarcely justifies a verbal version of assault and battery on the congregation. Noise is not to be equated with anointing. Unction yields to no exact measurement in decibels. One small but important point often ...

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