Monday, September 24, 2018

Not the same. . .

Being good at preaching and being a good preacher are not the same.  There are many who are exemplary orators and speakers in the pulpit.  I can think of many folks who have the ability to turn a phrase and to deliver a line well.  Nadia Bolz-Weber is certainly good at preaching if that is all preaching is.  She keeps your attention, that is true (partially by being shocking).  She tells a good story; I'll give her that.  But being a good preacher is less about the art than about the content.  Now to be sure, I am NOT suggesting that preachers should be lazy in the pulpit or fail in their pursuit of excellence in the craft.  I am not saying that at all.  But success in the pulpit is less about the art of keeping people's attention, keeping them awake, or leaving them with a catch phrase than it is imparting to them the Word of life, being faithful voices of the Christ who speaks through the pastor by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The truth is I have been known to glaze over during some sermons.  I well recall a 47 minute sermon in which I went from nearly nodding off to being angry that the preacher had used so much time to say so little.  I understand the problems of those in the pews who have listened to all sorts of things all week and who are now expected to listen with full attention to the preacher who can expect them to take note (at least for the first 13-15 minutes or so).  I am not blind.  I watch the faces of parents who are struggling to make sure their fidgety children do not become the sermon and aching elderly who are trying to keep their minds from their pain long enough to actually hear a sentence or two from the sermon.  I see the hands using the bulletin as a fan when the air is stuffy and who shiver under too light a jacket when the air is cool.  But the power of the sermon is not in the star who stands in pulpit but in the Word of the Lord that endures forever.  Our attention is requested because it is the Lord speaking through the mouth of the pastor and not because the pastor is so great.

Being good at preaching may help you keep attentive when the sermon is empty but it will leave you empty on the way out.  A faithful preacher may not compare to the gifted orators for whom the sermon is an extended monologue in which to shine but they will give you what you need to find peace from a guilty conscience, life in the shadow of death, and hope for an uncertain tomorrow -- all by the Word of the Cross!  I would certainly counsel preachers to work at the craft of preaching but I would also counsel the hearers not to judge by star quality -- this is not The Voice or America's Got Talent.  No, judge the sermon by what is said.  And that requires you to know the truth of God's Word well enough to sift through the words to find the Word of life.  In that way, every sermon is only half the pastor's or preacher's responsibility for the other half belongs to the hearer.

Be not deceived.  Being good at preaching is not the same as being a good preacher.  To those charged with the task of preaching, work at both so that you do not become a hindrance to the Word or to the hearer.  To those charged with hearing the Word of the Lord preached, work at knowing the Word so that you may recognize when it is faithfully spoken and rejoice in its promise and gift.

By the way, I do not write this as one who smugly presumes I am better than I am in the pulpit.  I struggle even after over 39 years of writing sermons and delivering them.  But a little holy fear about preaching is not at all a bad thing.  In fact, it could be exactly the right medicine for the malady before us of people who are good at preaching but not good preachers.

9 comments:

John J. Flanagan said...

You are too kind. Bolz Weber is a false teacher, nothing more, nothing less. Her preaching is to induce you away from the Gospel, not bring you to the truth, but to drive you away from it. Of course, to those with itching ears want to be scratched, want to hear more of her messages, because the plain Gospel is not enough. Bolz Weber will ensure that sexual sin and homosexuality are not really sins at all, and that you can do as you please....God approves. This is what some in our culture want to hear, and reaffirmation is essential to the socially relevant and progressive Christians of our time. It is the devil at work through people, and even the pulpit can be his tool.

Carl Vehse said...

Wait! What?!? You acknowledge Bolz-Weber:

1. "keeps your attention";
2. "tells a good story";
3. "is certainly good at preaching", which "is less about the art than about the content".

Nadia Bolz-Weber is good at preaching like Jeffrey Dahmer is good at cooking!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the distinction is that Nadia Bolz-Weber is a captivating speaker or orator, and also a false teacher. Certainly she is not a trustworthy preacher or teacher of God's Word.

Anonymous said...

Recently, I heard a Baptist sermon that went for an hour and seven minutes (I timed it), and said nothing coherent at all. It was all rant and rave for nothing. And yet, these people are well received (there were numerous shouts of "right" and "amen" during this "sermon." I was thoroughly disgusted.

Fr.D+

John J. Flanagan said...

The substance of the sermon message is always questionable when a false teacher speaks. You must get past the bluster, the phoney charm, and the manipulative arguments. We are called as Christians to discern the truth, and this is where we seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Pastor Peters said...

Okay Rick Strickert and those of you who condemned me for what I said about Bolz-Weber, where did I say she was a good preacher? She is a captivating speaker but did I not say that preaching was about content and not simply about keeping your attention? You could say that Carl Vehse/Rick Strickert keeps your attention as well but that does not mean he is erudite and his content worth reading. Geez, read to discern and not to jump on the first thing you want to condemn.

Carl Vehse said...

My post claimed "Nadia Bolz-Weber is good at preaching like Jeffrey Dahmer is good at cooking!"

Dahmer's cooking was bad because he was a bad cook cooking bad things.

Anonymous said...

NBW would not get to first base with me because she has two strikes against her. She is a female pastor and her looks scream rebellion, neither of which is consistent with the office of the public ministry. She has already communicated all I need to know about her. A third pitch is unnecessary. In her case, discernment couldn’t be easier.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, I think you do need now to consider more drastic measures to make sure Carl Vehse is unable to pollute your blog with his vile remarks and comments. You may need to consider moderating comments. It would only take a few minutes every day and Vehse would simply go away and bother some other blog. He is a vile, nasty old man who needs to be given no platform. Let him rage and rant somewhere else, but not on your very fine blog.