What should we desire every time we stand to preach?

If I followed some of the unsolicited suggestions I received the first few years of preaching in my church, I would be preaching less than 20 minutes, trying to emulate Billy Graham, and standing to preach without notes or preparation time trusting “the Spirit” will tell me what to preach.  Anyone who has preached regularly to the same group of people have received some very helpful feedback to help us grow…and some not so helpful feedback that gradually can create this confusion in the heart and mind of what is to be our focus every time we stand to preach.  Allow the counsel of John Angell James to advise us and keep us on the right path:

“This is earnestness in preaching: when it is evident to the hearer that the preacher feels the truths he discusses; when it is manifest to all that he believes what he says, in affirming that his hearers are sinking into perdition, and that he is labouring to persuade them to forsake their evil courses.”

As you prepare this week, dear brothers, remember the goal in preaching is earnestness and faithfulness to God’s Word.  Not a home run.  Not a certain amount of conversions to come from it.  Not a certain amount of “great sermon” pats on the back.  Not an amazement in you and your skill to craft words and deliver them with charm and wit.  Our aim is to preach with an earnestness for and because of Christ, and faithfulness to God’s Word for God’s glory.

Posted in Preaching, Training for Ministry
8 comments on “What should we desire every time we stand to preach?
  1. Stan says:

    Amen my brother! Thank you for that exhortation.
    One of my treasures is John Angell James’ book on preaching: “An Earnest Ministry – The Want of the Times”

  2. John Kuvakas says:

    Thanks, Brian. I’ve had the “you shouldn’t have to take notes into the pulpit” comment a few times. i work form a manuscript and make every effort to avoid using it as a recitation piece but always have it as an “anchor” and reminder. I’ve read a number of book son preaching without notes but have never been comfortable with relying on extemporaneous comments. I’d rather be accurate in my points. I’m sure many of your readers have similar feelings and experiences yet, the idea that “those guys without notes are the really good ones” seems to rise up from time to time. Any comments?.

    • lawrencestpastor says:

      I don’t think that all who recommend not taking notes into the pulpit are saying you should be completely extemporaneous. In fact, I have read some that claim it takes more preparation to deliver and craft a sermon with no notes. The idea is that if you can’t remember what you want to say, how is anyone else going to remember it. I use post-its in my Bible with main points and a couple key words under each. Moving to this method has greatly improved my relationship to the congregation as well as allowed me to step out from behind the pulpit. I know I’m not Brian, but I hope this is helpful.

      Because of Christ,

      Kris Drees

  3. John Kuvakas says:

    Thanks, Kris. You are correct about those who recommend not taking notes into the pulpit, none are saying we should be extemporaneous and virtually all of them agree it takes more work. I guess my main question is this, “How many of us use notes as opposed to a manuscript?” I spend about 20 hours a week on our sermons. I am an expositor and would find it very difficult to piece together the results of my prayer, meditation and study without comprehensive notes. I have, from time to time, done exactly what you do and enjoy it. But, I’ve also found that writing a manuscript, with proper preparation, gives me the opportunity to move out of the pulpit and move back again when I need to consult my notes.

    • Kris Drees says:

      Bro. John, I am sure that you have been pastoring far longer than I have, so I probably shouldn’t even have responded to you the first time. I only responded because I am struggling thru these same issues myself. I just graduated from seminary about a year and a half ago and discovered that my sermons were very much like the theological papers I wrote while in seminary. At that time I was not using a manuscript, but a very extensive sentence outline to preach. I have found that moving away from that form of outline to a shorter more concise one has helped me to simplify and relate more to the congregation. I think this was very much needed in my approach. I had the privilege of sitting under Brian for a couple of years and he does an excellent job preaching from a manuscript. In light of that fact, I tried it, and found I relied too much on it. Maybe the answer is a combination. Write a manuscript and take a short outline to the pulpit? Or maybe we should pick whichever method best fits our own style of preaching? I feel a little at times like a blind man trying to find his way in an unfamiliar room. I can just hope and pray that God will be my guide.

  4. Brian – Fantastic reminder. Say thanks to John James for me too. 🙂

    Brian – Sorry if I’ve missed it somewhere, but are any of your sermons uploaded online anywhere? I would love to listen to you unpack the word. Please let me know.

    Grace to you, brother.


    • Brian Croft says:

      Thanks for asking. You can access my sermons through our church website which is the only link under the blog roll on my blog home page. Or you can get directly to the sermons page through this link:


      I just finished preaching Hebrews and am about 6 weeks into 1 Samuel. Larger portions (about a chapter a week) of 1 Samuel, smaller portions of Hebrews. I welcome any thoughts you have.

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