The Ten Commandments of Preaching

October 15, 2018

I recently did a seminar on preaching for the European Leadership Forum in Hungary– I used the pneumonic ‘E-X-P-O-S-I-T-O-R-Y’ for the ten commandments of preaching. These are some of the notes from which I spoke.

E—Evangelistic. Gospel preaching must have an evangelist edge. You might not have an altar call but you’ve got to call people to the altar.

X—Excellence. It’s hard work. You need sweat to make it sweet.

P—Proclamation. Certainly, all preaching is dialogic in mood though monologic formally. But there is an essential authority to the preaching of God’s Word. God’s Word need be preached winsomely but must not be preached wimpishly.

O—Organization. Structure and lack of it is the hidden failing of many an otherwise good sermon.

S—Scripture. Preaching is to bleed the Bible. If as JI Packer says the Bible is God preaching then preaching is re-preaching the Bible. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for: not just the authority of Scripture but the sufficiency of Scripture is the mandate of the preacher (2 Tim. 3:16 etc.)

I—Inspiration. I mean here the inspiration in the sense of anointing, and in the sense of the work of the Holy Spirit. Great preaching has the sense that the Holy Spirit is at work, that God the Holy Spirit is speaking (“The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God”), and that the preacher – mysteriously – is talking about me with a word from God.

T—Teaching. The British preacher Dick Lucas makes the point that the difference between the seed that fell on the good soil and produced many times what was sown and the other soils was that the good soil “understood” the Word. Clarity, teaching, instruction. Preaching is not just a vision moment; it is instruction. Clarity. Crystal clarity. Preach not to be understood but so that you cannot be misunderstood.

O—Oratory. There is a false fake rhetoric, and there is a sublime biblical rhetoric, what the Puritans used to call “Plain Preaching.” Not boring preaching, but plain as in ‘straightforward.’ Paul describes the same thing at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 2 and 2 Corinthians 4.

R—Relational. Preaching as a pastor, and to some extent all preaching, has a relational subtext. Preaching is to be an expression of love (“Christ loves compels us”) not an expression of control. The counseling room informs the pulpit, and vice versa.

Y—You. Having written a book called ‘The God-Centered Life’ this might be a surprising point to finish on. But preaching if it is not merely truth mediated through personality, in the famous Haddon Robinson phrase, is at least a personal encounter. It is “live.” Lloyd-Jones used to say that his ambition was to be himself, or words to that effect. Don’t copy someone else; strive to be you in the pulpit, in the sanctified, Holy Spirit filled, godly sense of ‘you.’


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