Somebody said to me recently that the church has the most eloquent speakers in North America. I’d never thought about that before.
It might be true, though. If you listen to even a sampling of preaching podcasts and compare them to the speeches made by business leaders or politicians, you could make a strong argument that the church has better orators than the marketplace.
Which raises a deeper question: why isn’t the church as a whole growing or advancing? If oratory skills alone wowed people and changed lives, why aren’t most churches growing? And if your church is growing, is it growing for the right reasons?
That got me thinking about my own preaching. Like most preachers, I want to be the best communicator I can be. So I solicit feedback on my talks: what worked, what didn’t? I listen to other preachers to grow spiritually and to shape my preaching. Once a month or so (although it’s never a comfortable thing), I’ll watch my own sermons and try to learn and grow.
But if I’m not careful, what I’ll try to do is to become a better speaker or try to come up with clearer outlines, structure and metaphors. As I was thinking about this again over the weekend, the irony hit me: that’s not what the Bible says changes lives.
About 1,950 years ago, there was a tension of sorts between two preachers. One was a brilliant orator. The second preacher wasn’t much of a public speaker at all. But the second preacher made the argument that it’s not clever speeches that change lives – it’s Christ and Christ crucified. The first preacher was named Apollos. The second we know better as the Apostle Paul. Paul, a poor public speaker by his own admission and unimpressive to others , said that the real power in preaching comes by the Spirit of God.
This week, I’m going to be personally reflecting/praying over the power of God as revealed in preaching. If it’s primarily how God uses preaching, I want to focus more on that. If I’m not intentional in focusing on that, I’d probably just focus on speaking more clearly and convincingly. (Not entirely wise.) I’d love to hear from preachers/communicators on how you approach that.
Second, I’d love to hear from people who have been impacted by preaching. How did ‘the power of God’ come alive in preaching for you? In what ways have you experienced the demonstration of God’s power in preaching apart from eloquence?