Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday's Ministry Musings: The Changing Face of Preaching Styles

This post will officially disqualify me from holding an office within the Southern Baptist Convention for at least 30 more years. It is not meant as slander. It is not meant to trash another man's preaching style. It is not even meant as a criticism. Here is the sacred cow that I'm getting ready to "insult"....I do not like Adrian Rogers' preaching. My pastor loves him, I love my pastor, but I do not share his love for Rogers' preaching. (Neither of us agree with him doctrinally on some points).

Apart from his anti-Calvinistic missiles here is why I do not like his preaching style. The alliteration and the constant "Here's what I'm going to tell you, Here's what I told you, etc." comes off to me as inauthentic and far too crafted. I think in days gone by this was the hip thing to do. Rogers did it better than anyone. Even his alliteration was alliterated. And it is a great tool for learning. Many books on preaching encourage you to use things like this to assist your hearers. Even parts of the Bible use it in forms. So, I am not against alliteration.

I am not sure what the underlying cultural values where that drove this type of preaching in Rogers' day--I was not in church then. But I do know that in our culture today for those under the age of 35 a far more effective method is passionate, messy, yet authentic preaching. I think people my age and younger are turned off by slick preaching and flashy rhetoric. People listen to passion and follow those that have it.

So here is my question and a little advice. The question is this--How do you effectively preach to those congregations that have Adrian Rogers-Charles Stanley-lovin' Southern Baptist as well as "what the heck is a Baptist"-Jesus lovin' postmoderns?

Advice--Preach the Word. Do not try to follow Adrian Rogers and do not try to follow Mark Driscoll or Matt Chandler. Be authentically who you are. If it helps you to think and preach with alliteration then do it but do it authentically. If you could care less about alliteration and are a messy Jesus lovin' postmodern preacher then do it authentically. Do not try to be who you are not. And lastly consider what John Owen said, "If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us."


  1. I used to listen to both Adrian Rogers and Charles Stanley on the radio occasionally, and truthfully, I have never seen what all the older preachers like about them.

    ὁ θεὸς δοξάζηται

  2. David,

    Is your "distaste" primarily doctrinal or style? Or both?

  3. I don't really care if someone uses alliterations or rhymes, for that matter. I just care if their content is solid and that's it's clear they spent time with God.

    His alliterations were an attempt to put the truth in a format that people could remember easily. It was a genuine, and somewhat successful, attempt to help them remember the flow/structure of the passage he preached. This is to be commended, even if we find it annoying...and I too find it annoying.

    Our postmoderns are looking for it slick or messy, then just want to know that our lives our changed by the words we proclaim. Postmoderns especially have a high-view of language (meaning, they think it is a really powerful force for evil and good...but mostly evil!), so we need to be careful about our rhetoric, making sure it is not violent and hurtful, but loving and truthful. Truth hurts sometimes, but it can be a loving hurt, and postmoderns want to know that we love them as we speak the truth to them...

    So it is not a matter of what technique, but a matter of can they see we truly live this way?

  4. Tom,

    Great comment! I think you are right that authenticity is the key whether it be slick or messy. I do think that the "slick" has a tendency to come off as inauthentic but I think the "messy" has an equally dangerous tendency of coming off unconcerned and thus inauthentic in saying that we value Christ and His Word.

    But again, I think the point is that we ought to be authentic regardless of who we are preaching to.

  5. The alliteration was simply a style that was popular a while ago. It works from time to time, but can get old. Once I started preaching and found out how much time and energy it takes to do an alliteration I wasn't interested in it.

    It is a helpful device for listeners, but it gets 'thin' very quickly.

    Each generation has its styles, gimmicks, and preferences of sermon delivery and as this blog post notes, the styles they are a changing.



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