Chapter 13. What to avoid That’s a pretty clear chapter title! He speaks first of the preacher himself. The central advice is: ‘watch over your natural gifts and tendencies and idiosyncrasies’ - i.e., ‘watch your strengths’, as they will tempt you to pander to yourself in preaching. Then he applies it to the sermon itself. The key rule, he says, is to ‘be natural’... ‘Self is the greatest enemy of the preacher ... And the only way to deal with self is to be so taken up with, and so enraptured by, the glory of what you are doing, that you forget yourself altogether.’ He applies this to various areas:
- Not too much display of intellect or too little. Most young preachers display too much, and must get over it fast.
- No mere exhortation, but there must be exhortation that moves ‘to tears or to action’.
- Some polemic against false teaching, as in Scripture, but not too much.
- Don’t start with a smile and “Good morning, folks, nice to see you.” You are about a unique activity. The church is not your home and you’re not a host welcoming people into it.
Chapter 12. Illustrations, Eloquence, Humour MLJ is opposed (unsurprisingly) to reading out a manuscript in the pulpit. But (more interestingly) he’s also against memorising the sermon. The reason: if you’ve memorised it, you end up ‘declaiming’ it to people and you’re focused on remembering what comes next. That makes you focus on the mechanics of what you’re doing, which destroys the essence of preaching. Then the regular theme of ‘freedom’ recurs: put your faith in the Spirit and not in your sermon, he says. Then follow comments on different aspects: Illustrations. Use them ‘sparsely and carefully’, so they don’t become an end in themselves. Too many of them lessens the ‘tension’ inherent in the gospel message. Imagination. MLJ admits that his nationality makes him susceptible to over-imagination in the pulpit(!) Eloquence. Be like Paul: don’t strive to be eloquent, but let it happen when it comes to you. Humour. Since the preacher stands between God and man, humour is only proper if it arises very naturally. Using humour to ‘warm the audience up’ in evangelistic preaching is especially abhorrent. Reflections Lines such as ‘put your faith in the Spirit and not in the sermon’ have all the pros and cons of a half-truth, I think. It’s a good corrective to the preacher who sees himself simply as delivering something that’s already finished (‘here’s one I made earlier!’), and fails to be sensitive to the work of the Spirit in the actual act of delivery. But it can lead the preacher astray in not seeing the fruits of all his preparation as equally done (he trusts) under the influence of the Spirit. Thus, the preacher isn’t faced with trusting in either his sermon or the Spirit; he’s faced with trusting in the Spirit’s work both in his preparation and in the act of delivery. I can’t see that MLJ would deny this, but it’s not his natural way of expressing it.
Monday 22nd June 2015 –
Wednesday 24th June 2015
EMA 2015: Identity Crisis - Preaching to a confused world. Speakers will include Christopher Ash, Tim Keller, Mike Raiter, Andrew Reid, Vaughan Roberts, Bruce Ware and John Wyatt. We're confused about identity. We're confused about gender and sexuality. We're confused about race. We're confused about the beginning and end of life. The 2015 EMA will focus on a biblical theology of humanity: if we can be clear about the Bible's teaching on humanity, then we can be joyfully confident in our own identity in Christ and equipped to preach to a confused world.
Marriage and Ministry September 2014
Tuesday 23rd September 2014 –
Wednesday 24th September 2014
A 24 hour stopover hosted by Wallace and Lindsay Benn for up to 14 couples. Based at the Oast Houses, Kent. Marriage can be tough. Ministry can be tough. Together, they can be an explosive combination. What should be a joyful partnership sometimes turns out to be the very thing on which both ministry and marriage founder. We cannot let it.
Started in 1991, PT Cornhill exists primarily to train preachers, as well as equipping men and women to teach the Bible in other contexts, such as youth/children's work and women's ministry. Click here for more details
Our "collections" are specially selected talks which have been grouped together to help you make the most of our resources. We are currently featuring a collection of pen portraits of major Christian figures from history by Vaughan Roberts given at EMA over a number of years. Or click here and use the collections filter to see other collections.