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There are two characteristics of preaching that are sometimes placed at odds by certain teachers of preaching. Some think that eloquence and passion are on some kind of scale, and that you must choose which one is to be in the drivers seat in your sermon preparation.
Passion in Preaching
Great preaching requires passion. It requires of the preacher an engagement with the material. It requires that we demonstrate that the message we preach is real to us. If it is not real to us, then how can we expect anyone else to care about it. However, what is the place of eloquence? Is it just as important or less so? Perhaps it is more important.
Eloquence in Sermons
I think that verbal eloquence is a product of hard work. It demonstrates that you have worked on your craft. When I purchase a house, I want my house to be built by one who cares about hard work and trying to be perfect. We will all miss the mark, but the parishioner who comes to hear a word from the Lord should have a right to expect that we have labored over the correct words to use.
But if it is in perfect condition, the sermon still will reach no hearts if it is not presented in a strong way. Thus passion is needed. A designer who has no passion for her craft will present products that are slightly off. A writer without passion may present documents that are without imagination or ingenuity. If that is how you are preaching the gospel, then please try to jump start it. Now some would say you need to know your manuscript better. Others would say that you need to preach without notes. Whatever you do, only preach that which you are passionate about, and labor over your words that you might be a “workman that is not ashamed.” In short, we cannot choose between the two, but must make every attempt, by God’s grace, to unify the two in our preaching.
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