Now we continue our discussion of Charles Adams’ 9 suggestions to preachers that Teresa Fry Brown reported on page 164 and 165 of her book Weary Throats and New Songs.
Brown notes: “We preach with people not at, over, or under them.” That is a very compact and powerful statement that deserves some unpacking. First, we do not preach at the people. Preaching at, over, or under the people would seem to infer that the people do not play the proper role in the sermon creation as well as sermon delivery. We all have heard the preachers who do not take the people into account in their preaching. Sometimes the preachers use language that does not help, but hinders the reception. Some preachers seem to attempt to prove their intelligence or their preparation time. They are always throwing greek terms in their sermons and using technical terms from their seminary days. While I think that Greek should be an intimate part of your preparation, in presentation we should attempt to translate the ideas into language understood by the people.
In addition, there are those who preach under the people. Some preachers never give the people anything but milk and never attempt meat. They never attempt to give the people the things that will push them to a higher level in Jesus. In addition, there are those who preach as if they are talking to children. Your sermons should take into account who is in your audience.
Yes the we must preach with the people. That means that when the people tell you something is hard to understand (maybe through puzzled looks or even vocally) then you should expand on that point. when people tell you that they want to linger there a little bit more, go ahead and linger. Sure you must preach what God has given you to preach, but the preaching must be WITH the people and not TO them. If you preach with the people, your presentations will be much more effective communications of the gospel.