November 26, 2020

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: Preaching is….Preaching is not.

openmic1It’s a simple question for this edition of open mic.

Preaching is ________________. And/Or Preaching is not ________________.

Don’t write a novel or even a short story. Keep it compact and to the point.

I especially hope that this open mic question will involve as many non-preachers as possible. Preachers might not know everything there is to know about preaching. Ya think?

The mic is yours. Feel free to offer answers and to discuss answers in the threaded comments.


  1. Preaching is very hard as I tearfully consider how to share grace with the people this week. Preaching is not to be done casually.

  2. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    It’s not about good rules. It’s not about good advice. It’s not about good information.

    It’s about good news.

    For preaching to be good news, it has to be good, and it has to be news. That means don’t spend 90% of the time on the bad news. And don’t spend 90% of the time on the good rules.

  3. This is off-topic, but not much I think. I’d like to ask a personal question because I find a lot of the conversation here to be thoughtful.

    My son is 8 years old and autistic. I don’t know if you know much about autism, but autistics are usually very literal. My son is intellectually about 5-6 years old, and highly functional.

    My question is how would you explain spiritual concepts to a child who is very literal?

    If I try to tell him about the resurrection, he doesn’t really understand the concept of Jesus coming back from the dead. Dead is dead and that’s that. I’m not even sure he understands the concept of God, let alone one who’s in heaven but also all around us. (I also don’t want to scare him into believing in ‘ghosts’). Any ideas on how to explain these things to him?

    He does participate in mass, though I know he really doesn’t understand the why of it, and we are trying to give him a moral basis for his life – hitting someone is wrong because you wouldn’t want him to hit you, etc.

    Should I just wait till he’s a little older?

    • Joe, my 4-yr-old nephew is autistic and is just now starting to get some language. Other than that, I have no expertise. I just think that “Jesus loves you” will do for any age or level of understanding. Further explanation can keep pace with whatever his ability is. Our ability or lack thereof to understand non-literal concepts doesn’t hinder God relating to us. We just have to trust that it is happening on a different -but perhaps even more important- level. The only other suggestion I have is to explain that Communion is a special way Jesus shows his love for us: we eat together, just like our family eats together at home because we love one another.


      • He hasn’t made his first communion yet (that’s another issue we will have to figure out – he’s allergic to wheat). Thanx.

        • Joe A,

          The first communion part is actually relately easy. You can either talk to the pastor about low gluten hosts, which are acceptable. I heard that they might need to be refrigerated, but that I’m not sure of. OR just let him drink from the cup.

  4. Preaching should not be about what other factions/denominations should not be like, but about what we should be like. It should bring the lesson home to us, always, not leave it on some poor pharisees in Judea.

    • Northeasterner says

      This is a great point! A courageous pastor condemns the sins to which his flock is tempted and guilty. Railing on about the sins of outsiders can bring about a sense of unrepentent smugness and poisonous spiritual pride.

      • even MORE courageous (broken ??) is the pastor that rails on his/her OWN sin, and then confidently leads to the savior of THEIR situation. But that’s hitting very close to home, I admit…..

        GREAT POST, Tokah.
        Greg R

  5. Preaching is drawing the congregation to a greater love of God and a deeper participation in worship. Preaching is not teaching, coaching, counselling or informing.

  6. Preaching is compasstionately and passionately pointing people to the love of Christ. Preaching is not stridently announcing how awful everyone else is.

  7. A nonpreacher says

    Preaching is the obligatory part of the liturgy in which the pastor works out an new sermon illustration about basketball, etc., then scolds us for not attending Bible study often enough. Preaching is not telling me anything useful.

    (I’m a realist. I’m in my conservative Lutheran pew every week and love the liturgy, but I use the sermon time to mentally put together my week’s work),.

  8. Preaching is speaking from God and for God to His people. It’s a devastatingly-important and responsibility-laden task, and it starts with Scripture (God’s word) and has a trajectory through the cross to the lives, homes, businesses and relationships of the hearers.

    Preaching is not reading to anyone from the Greek lexicon, and may God save us from that kind of yammering.

  9. Preaching is not about how to live a good life, how to become a better you, etc.

    Preaching is the proclamation of God’s Law and Gospel. Speaking forth the Law, which shows our sinfulness and utterly slays us. And then sharing the Gospel, the Good News that in Christ we are forgiven, and we are given new life.

    And preaching, now matter the subject matter, always has to be centered on (and in) Christ and the salvation He brings. If it doesn’t have that component, the sermon (or homily or message or what have you) is seriously lacking.

    • What if you already know the gospel? Doesn’t it become overkill? I understand a lot of you can’t stand Joel Osteen because he doesn’t preach the gospel, but so what? There are plenty of churches that preach the gospel – unfortunately with an added dose of fear and negativity.

      • Tim W-

        I should have better explained things. When I use the term “Law and Gospel”, it refers to a theological principle that has been used by (but is not necessarily exclusive to) Lutherans. The Law is God’s commands to us, while the Gospel is what God does for us (i.e. how He saves us, sanctifies us, etc).

        So techinically, at least from my perspective, you are right- there can be “Gospel overload”- in the sense that the Law is not talked about, so that its “All you have to do is love Jesus” scenario.. Similarily, there can be “Law overload”, which is all about us and what we must do (or how much we are sinners), and which marginalizes the Gospel (the Good News of God saving us). They both need to be in balance- otherwise, you either neglect to preach on the Lord’s commands, or you neglect to preach the Good News of forgiveness, life, and salvation found in Christ.

        I hope that helps, and I apologize for not being clearer.

      • I understand a lot of you can’t stand Joel Osteen because he doesn’t preach the gospel, but so what? There are plenty of churches that preach the gospel – unfortunately with an added dose of fear and negativity.

        Dude, that’s a VERY BIG “so what?”. If Joel is a christian minister, and I’m not saying he isn’t, then shouldn’t he be preaching the christian message (the gospel). If he want’s to be a generic motivational Zig Ziglar, cool, but when he puts “JESUS” on the handbill, the message needs to be what Jesus taught: simple question , is what Joel teaches what Jesus taught ?? If there are big discrpancies, then he gets called on it, big blinking smile and all……..

        Greg R

  10. I would say that preaching is proclaiming what God says and why that matters.

    Preaching is not a lecture, conversation, rant, list of rules/morals/etc., a time to feel good about oneself, or a time for the preacher to speculate.


  11. Preaching is proclaiming what God says in the Scriptures, and explaining it in a way that His meaning is clear to those who hear it. Preaching is not an opportunity to make yourself look good or to give opinions that cannot be backed up by the Word of God.

  12. Preaching is proclaiming God’s story of His Son and locating ourselves and our hearers in that story.

  13. Preaching is a Martin Luther sermon.

    Preaching is not a Joel Osteen or TBN telepreacher sermon

  14. Preaching is a gift, which draws on spiritual gifts, such as wisdom, knowledge, and teaching (and others). It is not merely a talent for public speaking, but that talent supercharged with the Spirit living within the individual, enabling her/him to effectively exhort, equip, and encourage the Body of Christ, preparing Her for the work to which She’s been commissioned.

    Preaching is not pulling a sermon down off of pastors dot com, or some such site providing sermons, and reading it from the pulpit. (Yep. We had one of those.)

  15. Preaching is sacramental: God using flesh and blood and air molecules to touch us. Preaching is not merely passing along spiritual facts and knowledge.

    Someone where I work has a nameplate which is composed of old wooden movable type. It to me is a reminder how words and language were once very physical, tangible things: carved in stone, impressed in clay tablets, scratched onto parchment, or artistically scribed by monks. Words have become very heady and disembodied, floating in space like aparitions on video screens and computer monitors. A lot of preaching comes across like that.

    I think that is why seminaries need to rediscover homiletics. Expository teaching is important, but how to preach by allowing God’s word to do the talking is an art. With so many pastors who burn out early, there are fewer and fewer experienced pastors who can mentor young pastors in how to preach. All they have to go by are the prominent names on T.V., radio, and in the mega-churches.

  16. Interesting article by Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family:

    Couple quotes:

    “We have entered what columnist Kathleen Parker calls ‘a political era of uninhibited belligerence,’ that is finding expression in sermons, at town hall meetings, on radio talk shows, even on the floor of Congress…”

    “We must get to a place where we can disagree about important matters without being disrespectful. God calls Christians to stand up for our convictions when they are rooted in His truths. But He also calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Those are not mutually exclusive exhortations.”

    I think this addresses that how one preaches is as important if not more important than what is being preached. It used to be that when the pastor put on the vestments that he or she became a symbol Christ; the shepherd representing the Good Shepherd. Now, pastors are encouraged to not only be beligerent, but arrogant, insulting, condescending, mean, and angry. No wonder pastors now dress like a businessman or a biker gang member. What people hear is the God being represented by the pastor speaking down to them with the same uncompassionate manner.

  17. preaching… is living your life so honestly and so authentically that even your failures cause others to wonder at the awesomeness of the God that you serve.

    • is that why you’re wearing the ol’ Lutheran ‘SIN BOLDLY” T-shirt ?????

      great to see ya’ over here at MONK’s

      Greg R

  18. Preaching is: that which ought to be done in 30 minutes or less.

  19. Northeasterner says

    Preaching is proclaiming the real forgiveness of real sins by a real Savior and everlasting life in His name.

    Preaching is not about calling attention to the preacher.

  20. Northeasterner says

    Good preaching is FOR YOU, that is, for the person hearing it. The best pastors have spent enough time in one-on-one conversation with members of their flock that they have a deep understanding of the hurts and temptations common to this specific set of people, and they speak forgiveness in Christ’s name in a way that those people hear it (without breaking confidentiality, of course).

    In one of the best sermons I ever heard, the pastor described the suffering endured by some very young (kindergarten aged) students in his school who were suffering the fear and pain of a father’s deployment in Iraq. He spoke of a Christ who suffers with them, and will ultimately deliver us from fear, pain, sin and death. Extremely powerful.

    And he never would have known to preach this had he not spent some serious time listening to six-year-olds.

  21. Preaching is proclaiming the Gospel of Christ as central to whatever issue/text/etc you happen to be focusing on today. Preaching is not Jesus showing up at the altar call and nowhere else.

  22. For me, preaching is a special moment in the worship service when we encounter God anew through the Scripture, the message, and the interworking of the Holy Spirit. Preaching should never be used for self-aggrandizement or for an editorial from the pastor.

  23. Preaching is, has been, and will be key in spiritual revivals.

    Preaching is NOT transferring condemnation but proclaiming freedom for the captives!


  24. Preaching should be solution based, not problem based.

  25. Preaching is Christ “in” me somehow connecting with others. Anything else is just me trying to get to that point…..

  26. Casual Observer says

    Good preaching gives real reasons for hope.

  27. Preaching is a 168 hour week, not a 20 minuet sermon.

  28. Preaching is that moment of potential when God breathes life into those present.

    Preaching is not a staged event under human control.

    It is not important where real preaching occurs or who the person is that God uses for this moment. What matters is that someone has listened to God and God has chosen to use this humble, listening soul.

  29. Preaching is facing an audience (or just a person) with an ever-more limited attention span, an ever decreasing willingness to hear the truth, and an everpresent willingness to believe almost any wind of doctrine on the flimsiest of provocations, and somehow finding the shortest, most direct way to say:

    1) God is perfectly holy, perfectly righteous, perfectly just and perfectly loving. And 2), You are none of these things.