Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

5 Types of Preaching

5 Types of Preaching

When preaching, I often try to measure up the listeners in the room. I want to know if they are engaged, bored, drowsy, or prepared for the time of worship and the Word. More often than not, my assessment should start with myself. As a pastor, I need to evaluate my own heart and preparedness for the moment of the sermon. In doing so, I’ve come up with five generalized styles of preaching: four of which need to be guarded against and one that I hope is the regular manner in which I preach.

1. Pulpitainment: In this manner, being clever replaces stating truth plainly. The truth is in there, but you have to listen for it in the punchline, the video clip, or the story told by the preacher. We all know it is necessary to keep the listeners engaged in what we are saying. The glitch is that we think the Scriptures will not do so and therefore we have to drum up something more interesting to hold their attention. The right staging, songs, illustrations, and all the rest can be parts of a great worship service… as long as it is pointed to worshiping God. Don’t give in to the temptation to entertain the audience and forget that the time is primarily for the mission of the King.

2. Pulpiteering: The preacher becomes the point of the sermon. It happens when humility gets replaced by your ego. It is not done on purpose (I hope). However, there are times when the preacher wants to “assert his authority” in such a way that proves he is the leader of the church. This boisterous, blustery preaching exalts the man and loses the gospel message.

3. Over-Sharing: I’ve written before about how excessive authenticity leads to awkwardness. The preacher must present himself as a real person with real struggles. Any hint of a plasticized life will ring hollow. But a little authenticity goes a long way. You must know your congregation and understand how much to share before it all becomes awkward for the listener. We must not allow our transparency to become the only thing people remember when they leave the service. Be genuine but don’t use transparency and/or confession as a way to leverage a response from people.

4. Exegete-Only: Exegesis is a necessary part of sermon preparation. However, Hebrew or Greek word studies should not replace teaching the text’s truth and application. The exegetical process is wonderful for preparation, but in a sermon, it is quickly sterilized information. Plus, spouting off about your knowledge regarding ancient languages and customs can be a breeding ground for intellectual pride. Additionally, no one really cares about the eighteen derivations of that Hebrew noun. Use the information to give clarity to people, but don’t let Bible background information drive your sermon.

5. Passage-Driven Exposition: The preacher’s work is to expose the truth about God in the Scriptures to people in desperate need of transformation. To do so, it requires engaging people with the power of the Bible. In fact, the preceding list of possible speaking styles can all be effective when subservient to the scriptural text and used with wisdom. The preacher should be engaging and not boring because the text is alive with the power of God. The preacher should speak with a commanding demeanor because the subject matter is the commanding power of the gospel. The sermon should have a confessional attitude because everyone from the preacher to the listener is coming under the authority of God. Exegetical work and other preparation should show up in the content of the sermon because the pastor takes the work seriously to study diligently for the moment of preaching.

In the end, I want to preach a Bible kind of message in a Bible kind of way. If it is a narrative passage, I preach the story. When it is prophetic, I raise my voice and declare the oracles of God. As I cross into the epistles, I teach the principles. But in all of the various genres of the Bible, we must never lose the sense that we are communicating eternal truth in their temporary place to people who need gospel transformation. To that end, I am determined to let the passage God unveils before me to drive both the content and the manner of my preaching.

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Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.