Preaching personalities

Last night we had a guest speaker at church. He wasn’t new to our assembly — he had married one of our girls — but we had never heard him speak publicly before. For various reasons both my husband and I thought this man was going to be a bombastic, in-your-face type of preacher, but we were pleasantly surprised. He wasn’t that way at all. Of course, he was mainly just sharing his testimony and the mission God had called him to rather than preaching a message, but, still, we enjoyed what he had to say and the way he said it.

That reminded me of another time I had misjudged a preacher. Well, actually, I hadn’t misjudged in this case: this man was a bombastic, in-your-face, ranting and raving type of preacher. There was a Christian radio broadcast I used to listen to while cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, and this preacher’s program came on afterward. As soon as he came on I would turn the radio off in disgust. I did that for months, if not years. Then I got convicted that that was a bad attitude. This man did preach truth. I didn’t have to like his style or listen to him, necessarily, but I shouldn’t have that negative attitude toward him. His style wasn’t wrong just because it didn’t appeal to me: God had used him to reach many people — evidently some people like that style. (This doesn’t mean that the end justifies the means and as long as he’s getting “results” it’s all good. I don’t agree with that principle. But there was nothing unbiblical in his doctrine or even in his style.) The Bible teaches that, while preachers are to be held accountable for their doctrine and their lifestyles (whether or not their lives match up to what they preach), we’re supposed to respect them as men of God. So I began to leave his broadcast on while I was finishing up in the kitchen. And on one particular day God used something he said to help me in an area I had been struggling with for years.

One former pastor we had said, while speaking about the Old Testament prophets, that many of them were contemporary with each other (in my ignorance as a young Christian reading the Bible through for the first time, I had thought all the books were chronological), but God had sent the same message out through different men because they each had different personalities that would appeal to different people.

The pastor I had while in the last year of high school and in college and then the one my husband and I were under during the first fourteen years we were married definitely had the gift of teaching. They rarely raised their voices except occasionally for emphasis, they spoke to people and not at people, they taught logically and delibrately through a passage, they didn’t often move around much. That is still the type of preaching I long for and respond to best. I don’t like shouting, ranting, using a verse as a jumping-off point only to express one’s opinions, walking back and forth across the stage (and down the stage and up the aisles — that’s very distracting to me), shooting from the hip rather than logically proceeding through a passage. We’ve had speakers who have done all of those things, and I have to be careful lest my dislike (and criticalness) of those things distract me from the message. There have been times I’ve heard other people talk about how blessed they were by a message, and I think, “Where was I?” Other times I’ve been blessed by a more ordinary talking speaker (or writer) who had perhaps a more intellectual approach, and other people’s response seems to be, “Well, that was…nice.”

The bottom line is I am responsible for receiving the truth I hear despite how it is conveyed.

13 thoughts on “Preaching personalities

  1. People have different ways to convey a message I believe and I agree with you it is up to us to receive it no matter how it is conveyed if it is important to you. Excellent post ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Woah. What a great post/what great advice. And it happens to be something I really needed to hear (today). My attitude has been wrong (is wrong) towards a particular minister of the gospel and your post came along as a gentle chastisement. And THAT was exactly what I needed!

  3. LOL! That is very true. I don’t really judge HOW a preacher preaches… I can accept almost any format. But I want a good solid message in what he has to say! I visited one church when I was “searching” where the Pastor just talked around in circles — he was very calm, stayed in one spot, didn’t offer up ANY kind of distractions… he just didn’t have a message to what he was saying. Nothing fit together… it didn’t GO anyplace! THAT turned me off! I want to “get” the message – and you can dance it to me, sing it to me, scream it at me, or just calmly preach it to me. Just have a point to make!

  4. I think that is THE most important thing, Melli — to have a message — and a message from the Word.I get really frustrated with messages that maybe use one verse, but the rest is just opinions, or stories, or whatever (don’t mind a story or a biblically based opinion, but I don’t want a verse attached to a story or diatribe and have that called a sermon.)

  5. I used to do the same thing to a radio preacher — I wonder if it was the same one?! — and one day I reached up to turn off the radio, but his topic caught my interest and I paused and I listened, and I learned. After that, I still often turned him off because as a rule I do not learn from that style of preaching, but I became slower at reaching for the dial, and sometimes when he speaks on something I know I need to hear, I listen.

  6. Hubby and I always laugh over this topic because it is one more thing that makes us different. He loves a very animated, excited type of preaching, whereas I learn more from the the teaching type of preacher.
    I do try to remember though, that no what style the
    preacher, to be open to hear what God would be saying to me.

  7. I have similar tastes to you, as you describe your preferences in the last paragraph. I do like “cleverness” too — Os Guiness, for instance, who’s not ranting or showy but brilliant and lively because his mind is brilliant and lively.

    Your point is such a good one. God conveys his truth through many different vessels, and we can pick up gems if we’re ready to glean them anywhere.

    I’m thankful for my husband. We usually talk through our responses to different speakers, and he helps me to appreciate things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

  8. Oh wow. My church is exactly the type you’d have trouble with. But, you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve seen preachers hop up on the pews and run the tops of them all the way to the back of the church- I’ve seen them pace the aisles and the platform and I don’t find it distracting at all. Even their shouting doesn’t detract from what they’re saying. I love the fact that our services are left to the will of the Holy Spirit. Pastor might have a message prepared but if God suddenly tells him to preach something else, he does so. And it’s always timely. If they suddenly started handing out a bulletin with a planned bunch of songs, a prayer, or two or three, and a planned sermon – I’d run. But, even though we are so different in our preferences, we are still part of the same body!

  9. I think, Cindy, the Holy Spirit can work just as well ahead of time by giving the song director what songs should be done in advance as well as He can on the fly — He does know the future after all. ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree preachers and songleaders need to be sensitive to His leading and willing to change at the last minute, but planning ahead doesn’t quench the Holy Spirit. He can work through those plans if those planning are seeking His will as they plan.

    At our church the choir numbers and special music are planned ahead so those involved can practice. I don’t know how far in advance the songs for Sunday are planned — we don’t have them printed in the bulletin — our regular pianist and some of the musicians could plunge into something off the cuff, but some of them like to practice even congregational songs ahead of time. Yet even planned ahead songs often are just what I need at the moment.

    Most of the pastors I have had have preached through a particular book of the Bible at a time over several Sundays. I love that, because you really get the context of the passage and the continuity, and God speaks to me through the pastor’s careful, prayerful preparation and study God knows who is going to be there and what their needs will be. I imagine the early churches went over each epistle as they received it over and over. But each pastor has always been willing to set aside the study at hand if he felt led.

    I would probably feel really uncomfortable in your church. ๐Ÿ™‚ But that’s the main point of what I was trying to say, that different styles of preaching appeal to different people — one isn’t necessarily inherently better than the other — God uses them all to reach different folks.

  10. I know exactly what you mean. I grew up listening to the very animated type of preaching, and I still enjoy it to an extent. I don’t enjoy an arrogant preacher at all. But some of the hardest preaching in the pulpit comes from some of the humblest men I know . . . and those preachers I love to hear. On the other hand, the type that I have grown to enjoy most is the calmer type, and I have favorite preachers of that type too. All that being said, I have learned much from both types and all kinds in between!

  11. I’m with you on this, Barbara. I have, a few times, walked out during a service after listening to the preachers for a while. I didn’t feel at peace and something was not right…

  12. Pingback: Blog year in review: « Stray Thoughts

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