August 20, 2008

My post last week entitled “A Few Things I’m Working On In My Preaching” generated a fair bit of discussion, and some were unsure of the whole premise. While I don’t usually recap on old posts, I thought I’d share a couple more reflections on it.

1) The post was only intended to be semi-serious. I think only James Anderson – the first commenter – picked this up. Could this be due to the fact that he is from the UK and therefore picks up on the slightly ironic humour? (Adding at the end of the post “this may take a while” was meant to convey this! I should have been more clear). I seriously don’t even begin to ‘measure’ myself against any of the preachers I mentioned, nor do I break into cold sweats worrying I will never be all that they are.

2) There can be a danger of emulation. Several people made this point and to some degree it’s a fair one. Its certainly tempting – for young preachers especially – to unconsciously imitate certain stylistic features of their favourite preachers: to try to ‘be‘ John Piper or the like. I call this ‘personality plagiarism.’ That said, while this is an oft talked about danger, I can’t say I’ve actually heard too many preachers ‘who were just like so and so.’ I rather imagine that many an ‘imitating novice’ has either quickly realised the folly of such copycat behaviour, or if not, have been soon-after clipped round the ear by some loving critic! Incidentally, this is one reason why I try to listen to a wide range of preachers: to help ‘disperse’ the overwhelming influence of any one preacher.

3) There are good reasons to have preaching role models. The previous point notwithstanding, I’m still a great believer in having preaching role models. Here are three reasons why.

i) No doubt many of the preachers in Scripture had role models they learned from. Are we to say that the disciples learned nothing about how to preach from listening to the Lord Jesus, or that young Timothy gleaned nothing from the apostle Paul?

ii) There is a difference between emulating a preacher’s skills and passions (eg. their ability with original languages and compassion for the lost) on the one hand, and their personality (eg. adopting similar voice patterns, phraseology) on the other.

iii) While the frequently touted phrase “just be yourself, preacher” can have some merit to it, one suspects that it could serve as a cover for laziness. Just ‘being myself’ is actually not OK – if being myself means ‘shoddy’ in grappling with biblical context, or ‘lazy’ in working to apply the Word to the world of my congregation. In this sense, I never want to settle merely to be myself, but to grow in who I am to the glory of God and the profit of his people.


  1. I agree with you here brother. I have also found that some people who cry “foul” whenever you talk about having a preaching hero or whatnot are simply being arrogant.

    I really liked this statement you made, “There is a difference between emulating a preacher’s skills and passions (eg. their ability with original languages and compassion for the lost) on the one hand, and their personality (eg. adopting similar voice patterns, phraseology) on the other.”

  2. I agree with all you have said in this post. When I said “What is wrong with being yourself” I was never contending for laziness or shoddy preaching. I was simply asking why not use the gifts and personality the Lord has blessed you with – for His glory. God has placed you where you are because the people need your gifts, not Piper’s, Driscoll’s, Begg’s, etc. Through such service, the people will see your weakness and follow the Savior! Be yourself simply means be yourself for the glory of God. Laziness is unacceptable. In fact, I would say the lazy preacher is the one trying to be like some one else. It takes hard work to develop your gifts. It takes less work to copy another preacher.

  3. Colin wrote: “The post was only intended to be semi-serious.

    OH NO!! Does this mean we have to start taking you semi-seriously?!

  4. Eric, thanks for those comments. I see where you’re coming from. And that’s a great point about how our weaknesses in preaching (which may remain, despite our best efforts) can become a means for people to follow the Saviour, not the preacher…

    David, what can I say?? I do have a sense of humour hidden under here ‘somewhere’😉

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