Observations on “Pastoral” Preaching

In light of our last post on “common pitfalls” here are a few more observations (both negative and positive) on the intersection of pastoral ministry and our preaching:

  1. Preaching great sermons should not be a cover for poor shepherding (1 Peter 5).
  2. Beware of preaching that is not applied personally.
  3. Beware of preaching that is not applied publicly.
  4. Don’t make an idol out of a theological system especially if it prevents you from making specific conclusions about special issues in the text.
  5. Preaching that encourages pure doctrine to the exclusion of pure religion is sub-christian (James 1:27).
  6. Learn to preach in weakness, fear and in much trembling….the opposite is a kamikaze pride (1 Cor. 2:3).
  7. Show the congregation that your preaching is dependent on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4-5).
  8. Learn to embrace anything (e.g., “thorn”) that will keep you from exalting yourself (2 Cor. 12:5-7).
  9. Don’t hide behind terms like “missional” and “contextualization” in order to justify worldly desires and carnality (2 Cor. 1:12).

9 responses to this post.

  1. Enjoying these comments immensely Paul and crew. Sorry for the LONG delay in posting. In God’s providence I had the honor of burying my brother this past weekend. I’ll be posting on preaching funerals soon.

    On to my question. #6 is a slippery widget. I affirm it wholeheartedly but it can be a very difficult to define. How does one preach in weakness, in your opinion?

  2. Rich,

    Thanks for sharing such a personal detail concerning your brother. I’m sure we could all benefit from your insight into this unusual and special opportunity. Blessings to you and your family.

    As for the “how-to” of #6 I think the Apostle answers this in many ways throughout 1 & 2 Corinthians. Negatively it is preaching that does not depend on human philosophy or any kind of manipulative shenanigans. Also he stresses that excellence is to be found in the message itself not merely in its delivery. Simply stated I think its humble dependence on the Lord at every step of sermon preparation as well as in the actual preaching. What say you friend?

  3. Posted by Ed on July 18, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing this list. On the subject of #6, if I may, I would think that it meshes with #2. There are times when one is compelled to preach on a topic that has a great deal to do with one’s own spiritual growth. I must not, for example, shy away from addressing an issue that I struggle with myself, even if it means that I must share a personal area of struggle or weakness with the congregation.

    It is human nature, I know, to keep one’s weaknesses out of the sight of others, especially when one is a leader. But bear in mind that God, in His sovereignty, uses everything. The struggle I am facing at the moment is frustrating, but I am almost certain that there is someone in the congregation that faces this same struggle, most likely to a greater extent than I do. My experience now gives me the chance to speak with both authority and empathy to someone who dispairs of any escape.

  4. Thanks for this list. I had always been told to never show any weakness before a church. However, when I read Paul, I see this was probably not the best advice.

  5. Posted by seth2958 on July 19, 2007 at 8:19 am


    Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this list. It pierced my heart like a dagger. Very insightful and helpful.

    theological satire

  6. Thanks Paul. I agree that Paul (the Apostle) addresses his own weaknesses, especially in 2 Cor. I find myself going there more and more often the longer I am in ministry.

    My thoughts on weakness vs. renegade pride are still maturing but here are a few.

    First, I think that as a pastor we need to remind ourselves of our desperate need of the Gospel every day. When you’re the center of attention (like it or not) it’s easy to be put on a pedestal. I think reminding ourselves of our inability regularly helps battle the pride people often throw into our minds.

    Second, I am preaching through James and chapter 3 shook me up quite bit. I was confronted with the fact that sometime the pressure to “land” in a part of a text pushes me beyond where I am in study. I think this weakness can be demonstrated by simply saying, “I’m still working through this issue and I am not sure what it means” (or something like that). It blows my proposition but I think it helps people to see that even a Greek and Hebrew laced education does not answer all the questions.

    On top of that, I really struggled with what I called Pulpit Envy in Sem. The seemingly unbridled pursuit of the sacred desk needs to balance with the fact that people listen to and believe the things we say. I think weakness in preaching can be demonstrated with a holy weight of the task and approaching it with great, great humility and trepidation. I think people should hear this from our lips.

    Lastly, I believe it is appropriate and helpful to share with the people God gives to you the areas where you are working in your life. Share the weight of a passage like James 3:1. Show that you also are laid low before the Word as you study. I will from time to time actually confess a struggle in my life (usually public in nature) and ask people to call me on it when they see it – I’m lucid enough to see my own blindness. It reminds them that I am a sinner like they are and that we all need each other (Heb 3:12-13).

    The other side of the coin, and the thrust of my question, is how can we go to these places and not give license for people to not obey – after all, the pastor struggles too? Therein lies the rub.

    I could write more but those are the things rattling around in the addle brain right now. Another opportunity to show weakness.

  7. […] Greek Interlinear * Online Hebrew Interlinear * John Piper: Romans – New Concentrated Audio * Expository Thoughts – Observations on Pastoral Preaching * Review: Famine in the Land (Steve Lawson) * Should We Cover More in Our Sermons? * 9 Marks Audio: […]

  8. Posted by CalebKolstad on July 22, 2007 at 2:01 am


    I have been praying for you and i thank you for this post!

    Your brother in Christ,

  9. […] but rather “both/and.” In this vein I appreciated Paul Lamey’s Observations on Pastoral Preaching over at Expository Thoughts. I especially liked #6, learn to preach in weakness, fear and in much […]

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