Dispassionate Preaching Is An Oxymoron

A good reminder from “the Doctor,” Martyn Lloyd Jones, as I prepare my heart and mind to herald God’s Word tomorrow morning:

Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one. – Martyn Lloyd Jones, Preachers and Preaching, 97.


The Most Powerful Platform In America

For my pastoral ministry class I recently completed reading The New Guidebook for Pastors by James W. Bryant and Mac Brunson. Although there are a few things I would quibble over, all in all I profited spiritually and practically from it. One of my favorite chapters was chapter 3, “The Pastor and His Preaching.” Below are a few quotes from it that encouraged me and I hope will encourage you.

All through the Word of God and down through the annals of history, when God has moved it has almost always been attended by the preaching of the Word. There is no task more important, no calling any higher, and no work more noble than preaching the Word of God. – page 31


Too often our desire to reach numbers, people, and crowds has caused us to sacrifice the Word of God on the altar of drama, theatrics, and entertainment. While there is nothing wrong with skits, great music, PowerPoint presentations, and even appropriate videos, there is something tragically wrong when we do anything other than make preaching the Word of God central in the service. You cannot separate the Word from worship. – page 34


John Albert Bengel, speaking of the Word of God in preaching, said, ‘When the pulpit is in strong health, the light of Scripture shine bright; when the church is sick Scripture is corroded by neglect, and thus it happens that the outward form of Scripture and that of the church usually seem to exhibit simultaneously either health or else sickness; and as a rule the way in which Scripture is being treated is in exact correspondence with the condition of the church.'” – page 35


The centrality of the Word of God is of utmost importance. Whenever a preacher steps into the pulpit, what he does with the text influences the health of the church. If there is any hope of winning the lost to Jesus Christ, if there is any hope of maturing the vast majority of those in the pews who are in desperate need of growing, then the preacher must preach the Word! The only thing that twill relieve the famine in our land is commitment to content. Preach the Word!


The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire and this people wood, and it will consume them” (Jer. 5:14 NASB). Think about that for a moment. When you preach the Word of God, it is like fire that sets people aflame. No U.S. president in any state-of-the-union speech can claim that. No Hollywood writer, actor, or producer can do anything like that. No athlete in any winner’s circle can make a speech that sets the audience on fire. But the man of God has the promise of God that when he speaks the Word of God, it is like fire that burns and like a hammer that shatters rock (Jer. 23:29).

The pulpit that is on fire with the Word of God is the most powerful platform in America and all over the world. Pastor, is your pulpit aflame with the truth of God’s Word? Is your heart still on fire for God?

1 Timothy 4:13 – “Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.”

Preaching for Change

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

– 2 Timothy 4:1-2

Here Paul says several things about our handling of God’s Word:

  1. The goal of all preaching is change: “reprove, rebuke and exhort.” When we exhort we urge people to respond practically to what they hear from God’s Word. When we reprove and rebuke we seek to expose sin. This may not be what people want, but we must bring God’s Word to bear in their lives. 
  2. Change takes time: “be ready in season and out of season” “with complete patience.” The farmer doesn’t sow his seed and expect to see a crop the next day; the sun must shine, the rain must fall, the seed must germinate, and the plant must grow. Preaching is no different. It requires great patience.
  3. Change is always effected through the mind: “teaching.” A great temptation in preaching is to bypass the mind because it’s easier to excite the emotions than edify the mind, to be inspirational rather than instructional. But preaching that bypasses the mind can only engender a temporary response. We must be renewed in our minds (Rom. 12:1-2), and as we grow in knowledge, the truth embraces the affections, thereby producing change. 

A Prudent Preacher

Back in March I attended a church conference near Grand Rapids, MI and picked up the little work, “A Labor of Love” by J. Stephen Yuille and it has been immensely encouraging and convicting. Essentially Yuille has extracted Swinnock’s 16 prayers in The Christian Man’s Calling and has enlarged upon the central truth within each prayer, supporting them with other Puritan quotations and his own thoughts. As I was reading tonight I came to chapter 9 called “A Prudent Preacher” and it begins with this heartfelt minister’s prayer. I enjoyed it so much I had to share it.

The minister’s principal work is the preaching of the gospel, with which he undermines and overturns the stronghold of sin and the kingdom of darkness. Therefore, I wish that I might prepare for this work diligently, handle this weapon carefully, and deliver this message soberly, in a manner that is most for my God’s glory and my people’s good – not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power.


To this end, I desire that all my sermons might be, like Monica’s son, children of many tears and prayers, and thereby unlikely to perish. Martin Luther says, “Whoever prays hard studies hard.” Lord, may all my sermons be heaven-born. May they drop down on my people like rain on the grass. Let prayer be the key that opens the mysteries of Christ to me. Let prayer be the key that locks them safe inside me. Let prayer open and close all my reading, writing, and preparing. Let prayer begin and conclude al my sermons. In every sermon, I preach my beloved neighbors into eternal burnings or eternal pleasures. Oh, how I should pray for my preaching and before my preaching!


I also wish that I might preach every sermon to my own heart before I preach it to others, so that – preaching feelingly – I might preach effectually. May the Word come naturally, like milk from the mother’s breasts, to nourish my children. Why should I plead God’s cause without having a personal interest in it? Oh, let me be like the doctor, who takes the same remedy he prescribes to his patients.


I desire that I might never play the huckster with God’s Word – adulterating it with my own additions. May I receive from the Lord what I deliver to others. May I feed all under my charge with the sincere milk of the Word, so that they might grow. As an ambassador, may I keep close to my instructions. As a builder, may I set every stone in God’s temple by the line and rule of His Word. as a doctor, may I never experiment upon my people’s souls, but prescribe those tested and approved remedies, which the great Physician has entrusted to me.


Because my work is to touch and pierce my people’s hearts, and not to tickle and please their ears, I wish that I might preach a crucified Savior in a crucified style. May I not paint my sermon with a showy display of words, but employ all plainness, stooping to their lowest capacity. May I be “made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). I am a foreigner to my people, if I preach to them in an unknown language. I starve their souls, if I give them meat that they can never digest. Let me not read commentaries as the butterfly goes to the flower to gild her wings, but as the bee goes to the flower to gather honey to supply her young. Lord, let me never be guilty of painting the windows, thereby hindering the light of Thy glorious gospel from shining powerfully into the hearts of men and women.


My prayer is that I might not strengthen the hands of the ungodly nor sadden the hearts of the godly, but distinguish between the vile and the precious, and preach to each accordingly. May I give milk to babes and meat to adults. May I order my prescriptions in a manner that is suitable to their constitutions. May I use the needle of the law to make way for the thread of the gospel. May I lead my people – like Jacob his flock – as they are able to bear it. And may I teach my people – as Christ His disciples – as they are best able to hear it.


Oh, that I might not only preach prudently, but also powerfully. May my sermons be delivered, not as prologues to a play, but as the message of a herald with all seriousness and fervency, containing conditions of life and death. The Word is a hammer, but it will never break the stony heart if it is not brought to bear. What is preached coldly is heard carelessly. Lord, let me not – like the moon- give light without heat. Cause me to lift up my voice like a trumpet to give – like fire – heat as well as light. May I be consumed with zeal for Thy house. May I beseech poor souls to be happy, as if I were begging for my life. May I preach so successfully that I might produce much fruit.

– Swinnock, A Christian Man’s Calling as found in this work by J. Stephen Yuille

Like the Garden of Eden

This week I am preparing to preach my eighth sermon on Romans 8 (and as far as I can tell there will be at least 6 more) and my heart wholly resonates with this quote I just came across today from Spurgeon:

THIS chapter — the 8th of Romans, like the garden of Eden, full of all manner of delights. Here you have all necessary doctrines to feed upon, and luxurious truths with which to satisfy your soul. One might well have been willing, to be shut up as a prisoner in paradise, and one might well be content, to be shut up to this one chapter, and never to be allowed to preach from any other part of God’s Word. If this were the case one might find a sermon in every line; nay, more than that, whole volumes might be found in a single sentence by anyone who was truly taught of God. I might say of this chapter, “All its paths drop fatness.” It is among the other chapters of the Bible like Benjamin’s men which was five times as much as that of any of his brothers. We must not exalt one part of God’s Word above another; yet, as “one star differeth from another star in glory,” this one seems to be a star of the first magnitude, full of the brightness of the grace and truth of God. It is an altogether inexhaustible mine of spiritual wealth, and I invite the saints of God to dig in it, and to dig in it again and again. They will find, not only that it hath dust of gold, but also, huge nuggets, which they shall not be able to carry away by reason of the weight of the treasure.

The Healthy Church is a Preaching Church

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2

Using 2 Timothy 4:2 Tim Challies lays out Paul’s specific instruction for the kind of preaching that glorifies God and protects the church:

  1. Preach Expositorily
  2. Preach Persistently
  3. Preach Practically
  4. Preach Patiently
  5. Preach Doctrinally

Click here to read Challies’ further explanation of each point. 

Preachers on Preaching

Ten reminders for those who preach and teach God’s Word courtesy of Nathan Busenitz over at the Cripplegate:

  1. Effective ministry consists not of fads or gimicks, but of faithfully preaching the truth.
  2. Preaching is a far more serious task than most preachers realize.
  3. Faithfulness in the pulpit begins with the pursuit of personal holiness.
  4. Powerful preaching flows from powerful prayer.
  5. Passionate preaching starts with one’s passion for Christ.
  6. The preacher is a herald, not an innovator.
  7. The faithful preacher stays focused on what matters.
  8. The preacher’s task is to make the text come alive for his hearers.
  9. The preacher is to be Christ-exalting, not self-promoting.
  10. Faithful preaching requires great personal discipline and sacrifice.

Click here to read an explanation of each point.

The Most Amazing, the Most Thrilling Activity

Martyn Lloyd-Jones description of preaching in his lectures published under the title Preaching and Preachers, delivered as lectures at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA, in 1969:

What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course they are not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see it in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology that does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. What is the chief end of preaching? I think it is this: To give men and women a sense of God and His presence . As I have said already, during this past year I have been ill, and so have had the opportunity, and the privilege, of listening to others, instead of preaching myself. As I have listened in physical weakness this is the thing I looked for and have longed for and have desired. I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me a sense that, though he is inadequate in himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and glory of God, the love of Christ my Savior, and the magnificence of the gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.