The Texture Of Preaching

Let’s think of something other than the text and other than the technique. By the texture of the sermon we mean the indefinable yet unmistakable “feel” of it in the moment and event of its contact with those to whom it is directed. Here is climate, spirit, quality. Here is a combination of mood and manner. Here is the distillation of traits and tempers, of broodings and blessings, belonging to the inmost soul of the preacher.

When Paul had his last meeting with the “elders” of the Ephesian church, he said, “Take heed unto … yourselves, and to all the flock” (Acts 20:28). When he wrote his next-to-last message to Timothy, his plea was, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16). Concern for the flock and concern for the faith! But note that in both instances something came first: “yourselves” … “thyself.”

An authentic sermon is, above all, God in projection. It is also, secondarily but importantly, the preacher in projection. There is a species of ministerial failure that can never be redeemed by all the homiletical artistry in the world. It is the preacher himself going unwashed, unhumbled, unsanctified to his task. Richard Baxter, I have no doubt, had this peril in mind when he wrote picturesquely and warningly to his fellows in the high calling: “Many a tailor goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes.” The text? Appropriate enough. The technique? Skillful enough. But the texture? Flawed.

With what choice threads is an authentic texture woven?

One of them, surely, is serenity. Who has not felt that back of the turbulence and vastness of great music are the long hours of ...

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