by Grady King –
“Use your head, share your heart.”
After four decades of church ministry, thirty two of them as a preacher I can honestly say that preaching still matters! I can also say without question that preaching is more difficult now that at anytime in my life. Information overload coupled with multi-sensory technology has conditioned people to perennial distractedness. Seeing is believing takes precedent over critical thinking resulting in a diminished capacity for reflection. Biblical illiteracy makes preaching more difficult because it compels the preacher to help the hearers understand more than apply. Ironically, all of these factors coalesce to raise expectations of the preacher to inform, inspire, connect with emotional needs and apply to daily life all in thirty minutes or less with constant lapses in attention.
Most of my good friends are preachers and/or ministers. And the vast majority of preachers I know are under no illusion that people hang on every word they say or that they continue to do it as “job.” Preaching is a calling and those who listen to God, struggle with Scripture and know people don’t yearn to simply give a biblical lecture. We preach to shape God’s people into the image of Christ and make a difference in their world. It is hard and demanding work emerging from prayer, reflection and spiritual discernment. It is not for the fainthearted and demands one body, soul and spirit. To preach is to make oneself vulnerable to God and people.
So much could be said about the technicalities of good communication skills, avoiding distracting habits and the careful use of language. Words matter. There are however, two preaching orientations that must characterize preaching—use your head, share your heart. It is a bit simplistic but helpful. I use “head” as the thinking/reasoning part of preaching and “heart” as the emotive/transparent/vulnerable part of preaching. Some preachers are head preachers only and do not share Scripture in transparent, vulnerable ways. Other preachers connect emotionally with people, but lack good thinking. This is why I hear church members say, “Our preacher is really smart and very intellectual but doesn’t connect” or “Our preacher has nice lessons and good stories, but not much substance.” It is not about style, rather, balance. Consider the way Jesus taught and applied Scripture. Or, consider Paul’s language rooted in virtues to call people to emotional maturity in Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians. And Paul’s own confessional, emotive language in his knowledge of Christ as instructive.
Bottom line, pay attention to which way you lean and work on the other for balance. Ignoring it is not an option if your preaching matters. And I know it does. May God give you wisdom and courage to look in the mirror and grow before others tell you to go.