Some Thoughts on Preaching from the Newest Honorary Philistine!

Over on the Honorary Philistines page you can see my brief write-up on Frederick Buechner, the latest recipient of the coveted award.  Below are some wonderful quotes from his third memoir, Telling Secrets, which I just enjoyed re-reading.  I’ve selected some of his thoughts on preaching, which I think stand as a great corrective to a lot of the garbage preaching out there.  [For those who don’t know me and/or are just stumbling upon this site, the guy in the “featured image” is an example of the wrong type of preacher].

“Sad to say, the people who seem to lose touch with themselves and with God most conspicuously are of all things ministers… There is precious little in most of their preaching to suggest that they have rejoiced and suffered with the rest of mankind.  If they draw on their own experience at all, it is usually for some little anecdote to illustrate a point or help make the pill go down but rarely if ever for an authentic, first-hand, flesh-and-blood account of what it is like to love Christ, say, or to feel spiritually bankrupt, or to get fed up with the whole religious enterprise… Their sermons often sound as bland as they sound bloodless.  The faith they proclaim appears to be no longer rooted in or nourished by or challenged by their own lives but instead free-floating, secondhand, passionless.  They sound, in other words, burnt out.”

“Most evangelical preaching that I have heard is seamless, hard sell, and heavily exhortatory.  Men in business suits get up and proclaim the faith with the dynamic persuasiveness of insurance salesmen… The churches these preachers get up in are apt to be large, packed full, and so brilliantly lit that you feel there is no mystery there that has not been solved, no secrets there that can escape detection… they give me the sense of being official, public, godly utterances which the preacher stands behind but as a human being somehow does not stand in.  Whatever passionate and private experiences their sermons may have come from originally, you are given little or no sense of what that private experience was.  At their best they bring many strengths with them into the pulpit but rarely, as I listened to them anyways, their real lives.”

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