Preaching and Leadership

When I mentioned to a retired minister that I was starting another leadership training course he asked me if I was going to teach them to preach.  I replied that I was not.  Preaching (in the modern sense) is a separate subject.  Ideally, I suppose, all leaders should be preachers and all preachers should be leaders, but it does not always work out like that.  Spiritual leadership is a separate subject from preaching techniques.

According to the New Testament records Jesus never taught his apostleshow to preach.  Likewise, although Paul exhorted Timothy to ‘preach the word’, he seems not to have instructed him in homiletics.

In the New Testament there are about ten different words translated ‘preach’ in various forms, such as ‘preached’, ‘preaching’ , and so on.  One of them is the ordinary word ‘to talk’ (laleo).  Nowadays when we discuss preaching we more often than not have a formal discourse from a pulpit or platform in mind.  For this activity a measure of skill and normally some training is expected.  But in the days of the early church, for at least a couple of centuries, there were no church pulpits.  In any case, our Lord did not seem to have that kind of preaching in mind when he told the apostles to go out and tell people the good news.  No training in public speaking was required for that.

From time to time one hears of preaching courses being held, and that raises a question in my mind.  Why?  Because I am afraid that the emphasis will be upon techniques and know-how rather than on the quality of the preachers life, his character.  For example, one excellent Christian missionary charity specializes in training third-world men to preach.  Those who attend such a course will be given a small library of basic books.  On the surface this seems to be very commendable.  If the men concerned are truly converted, called of God, consecrated, prayerful, living godly lives, separate from worldliness and Spirit-filled, that can only be good.  But if they are not so qualified, not prepared in those qualities, they may be simply learning techniques which may result in seeking status and position, and end up being blind leaders of the blind.  This applies equally in the West, of course.

E. M. Bounds, in Power Through Prayer, wrote, ‘The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.’   He also wrote that it takes twenty years to make a sermon because it takes twenty years to make a preacher.  The saintly Robert Murray McCheyne remarked that his people’s greatest need was his own holiness.  On the same theme, Professor James S. Stewart, in his book on preaching quoted a certain bishop Quayle as asking and answering this question: ‘Preaching is the art of making a sermon and delivering it?  Why, no, that is not preaching.  Preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering that.  It is no trouble to preach, but a vast trouble to construct a preacher.’

The point I am driving at should be clear by now.  Emphasis on techniques alone may result in producing doctrinally weak, unspiritual, or even unconverted, men in the pulpit.  It need hardly be pointed out that there are many men in secular life who are fine, compelling, even brilliant public speakers, who are not preachers of the gospel.   So, for a preacher, while technique may be helpful, and in formal public services, very desirable, the primary emphasis for a preacher must be upon character, godliness, sincerity, prayerfulness, living the life.  This is why men need to grow in grace and if possible, learn the principles of spiritual leadership.  It is surely most significant that in that classic by J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, which every minister and Christian leader should read often, there is no chapter on preaching.

This is why, when considering a possible preacher such as when calling a pastor, we should be concerned with his character, his spirituality, his lifestyle, his godliness, and whether he is a man of prayer, not just his pulpit skills.  This is also why we must aim, not just at converts, but disciples.  But that is another story.

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2 Responses to “Preaching and Leadership”

  1. Preaching and Leadership « Already Not Yet Says:

    […] and Leadership By Stanley Jebb (My former pastor, theological educator, colleague, and still my […]

  2. Peter Cockrell Says:

    Thanks for this Stanley. Excellent! A much needed reminder. I have posted it on my blog. Hope you don’t mind!!

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