Men often fail in their strengths, and too often, those of us who are called and gifted to communicate God’s Word fail in that very area. It is not always that we intend to say something wrong or to leave something unsaid. In the words of Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” The more we talk the more opportunity there is to say something we should not say!

Some preaching pitfalls are rooted in poor study and others in poor delivery. We all have our struggles, and we all should be working to represent the Lord as faithfully and accurately as possible. Paul’s prayer request is good for every minister: “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”

Here are 7 tendencies in preaching that we must guard against:

  1. Falling short of what God says. If we fail to properly discover and explain God’s message, the divine intent, then we have failed as messengers. It does not matter how good a speaker you may be or how well received your message; it only matters that you have pointed people to God and to God’s emphasis. “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2).
  2. Going beyond what God says. It is very dangerous to take away from God’s Word and just as dangerous to add to it (Revelation 22:18-19). Preachers are called on to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Nothing less. Nothing more. Epaphras desired full understanding and obedience for his congregation, “always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12). All the will of God requires all the Word of God. Either the Word of God faithfully explained and practically applied is enough or it is not! I can tell you that it most surely is.
  3. Becoming more taken with the way we speak than with the truth we are privileged to share. Style often takes the place of substance in our culture. Voice modulation and articulation is not the mark of Bible preaching. Remember that the great preacher John the Baptist recognized that he was just a voice (John 1:23). When the Lord showed up and began to speak he said that his greatest delight was to hear the Lord (John 3:29-30). The voice will fade – the Word remains.
  4. Thinking that our opinions are as important as God’s revelation. All of our ideas, preferences, and suggestions never equal one word of the Word. It alone will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
  5. Drawing attention to our outline instead of the words the Holy Spirit chose. I use an outline. It provides a basic framework and logical progression for the message. But even the outline should grow out of the text! We are not called on to preach our outlines. If the outline is more prominent than the text or obscures the truth of the passage it is a distraction to both preacher and people. People need more than well-polished sermons and the Holy Spirit produces more than form and function. “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
  6. Speaking too much of ourselves. It is easy to get the “I” disease! A gospel preacher should be so consumed with Christ that his sole desire is for Christ to be loved and admired. We are not the hero – the Lord Jesus alone is worthy of praise! The Christian preacher is to be characterized by humility before God and man (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
  7. Reducing the truth to either information or emotion. On one hand, a preacher can become a robot simply reciting facts and relaying data. That is mechanical and lifeless. On the other, a preacher can try to “work up” some spiritual effect by playing on mere sentiment and emotions. Campbell Morgan rightly said, “Painted fire never burns.” Shallow emotionalism is flesh and not spirit. Give the truth and the Holy Spirit will cause the hearts of the hearers to burn (Luke 24:32).

In the end, the preacher’s aim is to clearly share God’s revelation and to practically lead the hearers to application. People must know the Lord and obey Him.

I am currently studying through the book of Galatians. In John Brown’s commentary, Galatians, on page 53-54 I came across this deeply convicting passage:

Egotism, or a disposition to bring forward a person’s self, is a characteristic of a weak mind and a contracted heart. It is not an agreeable feature in any man’s character; but it is peculiarly disagreeable when it is a leading trait in the character of…a minister of the gospel; and there is something incongruous and disgusting in one whose mind ought to be habitually employed about the glory of the Divine character…to appear primarily anxious to draw men’s attention to himself – seizing every opportunity to bring himself into notice – exhibiting the truths of the gospel chiefly for the purpose of displaying his own talents – calling men’s attention to them more as his opinion than as God’s truth, and less ambitious of honouring the Saviour, and saving those who hear him, than of obtaining for himself the reputation of piety, or learning, or acuteness, or eloquence. This is truly pitiable; and if angels could weep, it would be at folly like this.

A minister of the gospel can scarcely, in ordinary circumstances, keep himself too much in the background. He should try to forget himself, and to make his hearers forget him, in his subject.

The minister is just that – a servant. We represent another. Our message is not our own and never to be for our own glory. By the grace of God, we must seek to avoid any pitfall that would hinder us from faithfully delivering our Master’s message.

One final word. My dad told me when I started out that “it is not just what you say – it is how you say it.” It is possible that a man could preach the context and content of a passage but totally miss the Spirit of Christ. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did this, and we are not immune. By the grace of God, let’s ask the Lord to help us “speak the truth in love” every time we open the Scriptures (Ephesians 4:15).

Enjoying the Journey

Enjoying the Journey exists to evangelize the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ, encourage pastors and local churches, and equip believers to walk with God and serve Him each day. Through audio, video, and print resources we are seeking to preach the gospel, teach the Word of God, and reach this generation for Christ.

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