I sometimes jokingly say that the epitaph on my gravestone is likely to be:
“He could talk!”
Of course, that is an obvious danger for anyone who dares to speak in God’s name.
Merely having the gift of the gab does not qualify a person for being a preacher.
Talkativeness does not guarantee that what is said is of any lasting value.
It is possible for such a person’s speech to be, in the words of the Bard, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
The writer of Ecclesiastes makes the following cautionary statement:
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1–2)
It is probably sound advice to say, “Don’t speak unless you have something to say.”
Yet fools still rush in where angels fear to tread.
Think before you speak
1 Is it true?
In a “Post-Truth” generation where truth is devalued, denied and dodged, those in the pulpit need to have an unswerving commitment to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Preachers need to remember that hearers are unconsciously asking the question, “Is this person trustworthy?’
2 Is it timely?
Some preachers can confuse the good news with old news!
It is not good enough to argue that when people say that they’ve ‘heard it all before’ they’re probably not being rebellious, but simply being honest.
The Bible speaks today. Praise God that that is true, but preachers need to learn how to discern which part of the Bible is speaking with particular freshness to our situation now.
3 Is it useful?
Usefulness is one of the things that Paul highlights concerning Scripture in his second letter to Timothy.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is usefulfor teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
I have spoken in these blogs before about the importance of two questions for the process of preparing to preach on a biblical passage:
What is the text saying?
What is the text doing?
Preaching is more than a re-telling of biblical stories.
Preaching is proclaiming the message of those stories.
Preaching a message is always more than describing and explaining a biblical passage, it is rather designed to speak in the lives of hearers now.
4 Is it God-centred?
I might be able to speak with brilliant eloquence but if my words are only from me or about me, then what is the point?
All paths of genuine sermons lead the hearers to discover more of the one true and living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Hearers look up and ask, “Is there a word from the Lord for me today?”
Photo by Jessica Johnston on Unsplash