Preaching and Pancake Syrup

As I was eating breakfast this morning the following thoughts on preaching came to mind.


My wife made blueberry pancakes for the family breakfast this morning.  They were delicious ‘panners’ made perfect when topped off with maple syrup.  The syrup I have grown accustomed to is imitation “light” syrup.  As a matter of fact I really don’t enjoy “regular” syrup anymore.  It is too sweet for my liking.  I’d even choose light syrup over tree-tapped genuine Vermont maple syrup.


Sadly, I realized that many people are wired the same way when it comes to preaching.  Many Christians have become so accustomed to shallow evangelical principalizing that when real expository preaching is tasted it’s rejected (at least initially).  R.L. Dabney refers to a period in church history when Scriptural truth is presented but not in its Scriptural dress.  That has become the most accepted and familiar mode of preaching in most evangelical pulpits these days.  I’m not thinking about the Joel Osteens of the world in this particular post; I’m talking about men who honestly think they’re presenting an expository sermon and of congregations who think they’re actually hearing one.  It’s not unbiblical truth that’s presented, its actually sound doctrine that’s just not presented in Scriptural dress.


Dabney rightly believed that the golden age of preaching is when Scriptural truth is presented in Scriptural dress.  That of course is the power of true expository preaching.  When we preach, we’re called to speak as it were, the very words of God (1 Peter 4:10-11).  This is best accomplished when gifted men commit themselves wholly to Bible exposition.


The problem is that many people want so many illustrations, stories, or application points that no time is left for true exposition.  Who wants to hear about the historical background of Romans when in that time 3 or 4 stories, illustrations, or jokes could be shared?  Now most people wouldn’t say that aloud but that is in fact what they’re thinking.


I noticed this response over 10 years when I was a student at the Master’s College.  During a school sponsored Bible conference three gifted men brought the Word.  All were great communicators but one was especially humorous and “relatable”.  Unfortunately his sermons were also the lightest of the three.  His preaching was thoroughly evangelical but not truly expositional or deep.  Still most of the students I talked with in the dorms during and after the conference thought his sermons were the “best.”  Those most gifted in oratory are often most prone to this extreme.  It’s what i call “shallow evangelical principlizing.”


Engaging oratory and great communication is not synonymous with a great sermon.  In our preaching we should seek both light and heat.  I’m not calling for dry, lifeless, preaching here.  Passionate, clear, text-driven preaching is what our people most desperately need.  Just don’t be surprised if you bring that type of syrup to your people if they initially reject it in favor of the “light” stuff.

9 responses to this post.

  1. I agree that the stories and illustrations often are used to spice up the sermon rather than bring a further explanation. I personally think that a good introduction that puts the subject of the passage in one’s thoughts is the best thing to do. If you can raise the issue that the passage addresses, you can let it be addressed by the scriptures themselves.

    One thing that I have observed (a bit of a generalization I admit) is that most sermons that I have heard from many Methodist ministers are littered with extra-biblical stories. In fact, it seems that the formula is always the same.

  2. Caleb

    “Who wants to hear about the historical background of Romans when in that time 3 or 4 stories, illustrations, or jokes could be shared?”

    So true, its easier for the preacher, he doesn’t have to study as much. He also believes the people do not want to hear anything else. Or they might listen if he puts in a joke here and there.

    Solution to pancake syrup preaching! Teach new believers the purpose of preaching and what “preaching/teaching” is, rather than what they think it is.

    Its so true that many church members would rather hear humorious sermons, with little content. Our culture has driven this kind of thinking, and we as preachers have listen too much to the culture.

    Some preachers have mastered, triumph over, poor delivery of expositoral preaching/teaching. its not boring, taxing to hear delivered.

    A good delivery of a expository preaching on the background of Paul, or Romans, then good content of the text, where people can see the text come alive, you can have church that loves to hear the Word preached, rather than jokes.

    Good article, Caleb.


  3. Posted by Caleb Kolstad on January 29, 2008 at 1:20 am


    Thanks for your comments. Clearly there is a place for stories and illustrations.


    Great thoughts. Education is crucial, you’re right. I’m thankful to be part of a church where the Word is loved and our Sr. Pastor has been faithful to the Text for over 34 years.


  4. Great thoughts everyone. I, too, am thankful for a pastoral staff that believes in expository preaching and encourages the same from us “lay preachers” that get a chance every once in a while.

    I am all for illustrations if it helps the listener understand a point, but for the sake of time filler or a punch line, there is no room for such a thing.

  5. Posted by Caleb Kolstad on January 29, 2008 at 2:42 am


    Agreed! And too many illustrations can take away from the power of the text (explained and applied)

  6. Expository preaching and teaching unwaveringly begins and remains with the biblical text throughout the whole sermon. Rather than beginning with a human need or concern as the impetus for the sermon, the expository sermon deliberately reverses the action and has the sermon originate in the exposition of the Biblical text itself. Exposition starts with the Biblical text and holds fast to that text throughout the sermon or lesson.

    —Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, p. 50

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