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The Art of Positive and Negative Preaching

I was coaching gymnasts at a local club for a few hours a week. As I took beginners from basic skills like hip circles on the high bar to more difficult tricks like giants, I repeatedly faced a decision intrinsic to the art of coaching: when to say what the gymnast was doing right and when to say what he was doing wrong.

Both were necessary. I couldn't help a beginner on high bar by ignoring that he was about to swing forward with his hands in an undergrip position--he would peel in the front and fall on his head. "Don't ever do that!" I warned. "You'll break your neck."

But my ultimate goal was not just to avoid injury; I wanted these boys to become excellent gymnasts someday. So I encouraged them as they developed the fundamentals: "Good stretch. That's the way to hollow your chest. Nice scoop in the front."

Preachers face the same decision weekly. One of our most important decisions when crafting a sermon is whether to frame it positively (what to do, what's right, our hope in God, the ...

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