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Preaching From the Heart

I was talking my wife this week about what is it that makes a person a good preacher.

We agreed that the primary thing that helped us to hear a preacher with profit was that they preached from the heart.

I have spoken before about Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones’s brilliant definition of preaching as “logic on fire.”

I like the idea of preaching that combines careful thought and spiritual passion.

It is possible that such an attitude is purely subjective. It may well be that certain preachers have a style and personality traits that make it difficult for some hearers to connect with them. It may be a case of being ruled by our emotions rather than our intellects. Why should we have to choose?

It is possible to be a technically proficient preacher, with a clear understanding of the text, a well-shaped sermon that endeavours to relate the ancient text to the contemporary world and the situation of the hearers, and yet not hit the target.

With such a preacher everything appears to be in place but something vital is missing. There is a missing spark that means the sermon is not going to ignite with life and speak to my heart.

Many conservative evangelical preachers need to learn how to turn up the dial of their experiential and emotional experience.

I guess I want to ask questions like:

How can I tell that the preacher really means and feels what they are saying?

Has the message passed through the preacher’s heart before reaching their mouth?

What is it about this sermon makes me want to listen?

In my imagination I think of preaching from the heart as experiencing a preacher who is in touch with a hidden river inside them that begins to overflow as they preach. This can be seen in the words of Jesus:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37–39)

John’s Gospel is a wonderful exploration of the intimacy and abundance that is experienced when we encounter Jesus. If a preacher is telling us about Jesus, something of this intimacy and abundance should be in evidence during the act of preaching.

Some preachers talk about ‘preaching from the overflow’. I like that idea. It evokes the idea of a preacher who has encountered both meaning in the text of Scripture that they want to proclaim and fellowship with the Jesus that they want to reflect in their communication.

There is all the difference in the world between a person who preaches a message about Jesus and a preacher who brings me Jesus.

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