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preaching skill

The Big Idea: Marry biblical truth and passionate delivery

Make a commitment to exegete the biblical text and to deliver it with freshness and passion.

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PreachingToday.com: Based on your knowledge of preaching in the church today, what are two or three big ideas that you'd like to share with our community of preachers?

Hershael York: A couple of things come to my mind. First, I'm passionate about an approach to preaching that marries solid exegesis with passionate delivery. Frankly, I see preachers today erring in one of two directions and rarely finding the balance. That is, some preachers are grounded in the world of the Bible and committed to the text, but when they preach they're dull and lifeless. They put their people to sleep. On the other hand, there are other preachers who are very creative and passionate and effective communicators, but they are not rooted in the biblical text. I'm seeing both of these extremes. We need to have preachers who marry these two things—a commitment to the biblical text and a commitment to passionate, creative delivery.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of students who are almost afraid of any kind of sermon delivery practices. They don't even want to think about how to deliver the sermon in a creative way. They're leery of the human means of a sermon. But that's what God uses in preaching. God uses human means.

At the end of Peter's sermon in Acts 2 they said, "What shall we do?" Today, on Sunday mornings when preachers are through, people just say, "Where shall we eat?"

But there are also preachers who are so enamored with their creative delivery that they act more like Paul's opponents in 1 Corinthians: they're caught up in everything but the message of the cross. The message of the gospel, the message of the cross, becomes secondary to the communication experience.

So there's got to be a marriage between text and delivery. Of course the text is primary, but, frankly, no matter how well you know the text, if you're putting people to sleep, they're not hearing it anyway. I'm passionate about seeing both things done well.

When you talk about sermon delivery does that include how we use illustrations?

Yes. I take like Nathan as a model. When Nathan went to David, Nathan could have just delivered the message. He could have said, "David, you're a sinner. Repent." But he didn't do that. Instead, he figured out a way to deliver the message so he got David emotionally committed first. Nathan spoke to David's mind by addressing his heart. So notice how he captures David's heart and gets him committed. David responded to Nathan's parable about the man who steals that poor family's only little lamb by saying, "Man, this guy ought to die. He's got to pay back fourfold." Now David is emotionally involved in the message. Then Nathan gives him the message: "David, you're that man."

You see that approach in the New Testament too. Paul does it. In Acts 7, Stephen does it as he recounts the incredible history of redemption in Old Testament. Stephen uses those stories to get people emotionally committed to his message. They're so involved that at the end they kill him!

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Jason Whalley

July 24, 2013  11:56am

True. It is important to know what you are talking about when preaching the Word of the LORD. I think it's just as important to put some feeling into your sermons. They don't need to be filled with screaming and other theatrics - in fact, preachers who go too heavy on the theatrics end up being obvious about their showmanship and just leave me feeling patronized and disgusted - but it is vital to say it like you mean it, actually mean it, and feel it. When it comes to sin, Dr. York speaks truly when he says we are all guilty of sin, and that in order to grow spiritually we need to first recognize our sin as the sin that it is. Don't be afraid to get out from behind the podium once in a while, and don't be afraid to look people in the eye when you speak. Mean it, feel it, then say it.

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Sugrim Ramesar

May 04, 2013  7:33pm

I deeply appreciate the timely reminders of what preaching should really be . I hold the view that Dr.York's book on preaching is a must-read for everyone who wants to communicate God's life-giving truth to a desperately needy world.

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Charles e Whisnant

May 03, 2013  10:19am

The balance between delivery and keeping the text. People get caught up in the delivery more than the text. So our approach as you say is necessary to be able to have people listen to the Word and not necessary our voice.

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