Preaching holds a deep fascination for me.
I grew up as an atypical preachers kid, in the fact that I was proud of what my father did, I thought he was the greatest preacher I had ever heard. I still hold him in high regard as a preacher of God’s Word and he remains one of the most significant influences in my life as a preacher now, yet as I wandered through the years, I met and heard other great preachers – preachers that sounded nothing like my Dad.
Though preachers are plentiful, even without rehashing the subject of ‘good’ preaching vs ‘bad’ preaching, one preacher is inevitably so different from the next.
I think that’s good.
God, in His wisdom, has shaped each of us uniquely, and done so for sovereign purposes.
Though the variety is seemingly endless, I have observed four main ‘types’ of preachers.
Each of these styles have weakness and strengths. Each can be corrupted for the purposes of self glorification. Each can be powerfully used by God so that the one who speaks may do so as though he speaks the very oracles of God.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV)
My own experience tells me that most preachers will be primarily ‘wired’ to be one of the following, though it is often the case that a secondary style can also influence his delivery.
The Herald is the, “Hear ye, hear ye” of the group. He is the ‘Town Crier’, the one who stands in the square with a message from the King.
The Herald calls to attention any who are within earshot, rallies the troops, encourages the defeated, soothes the wounded and proclaims the excellencies of Him who is seated on the Throne.
The Herald knows that the message he brings is not his own, so he works hard to deflect attention to the one who deserves it. The Herald labours to ensure he knows and understands the content of his message so that he might place emphasis where emphasis is required, so that he might not only ‘speak’ the importance of the message, but also ‘demonstrate’ the importance of the message through intonation and timing.
Heralds are artists – embodying the message for the sake of transferring truth.
The Instructor is the ‘technical adviser’ of the group. He is the one to carefully pore over the text and explain and reason with his listeners what depths may be plumbed.
The Instructor is content to sit with either many or few, not only to explain what he has seen, but also to equip others to see the same.
The Instructor knows that the message is not his own, so he works hard to remain faithful to the text, as his faithfulness honours the one who breathed the text into life. Instructors love to see the subtle variations that slant the light in multifaceted rays which in turn illuminates the understanding in a myriad of ways.
Instructors are builders – constructing a way of seeing the text so that other eyes may be opened to see the God of the text.
The Narrator is the ‘story teller’ of the group. He is the one who stands to one side, pointing out the guide posts, describing the unfolding saga of salvation, helping people to take their place in the great narrative of eternity.
The Narrator is less up the front, and more off to one side. Letting the real story take center stage, the Narrator only adds what he feels will be necessary for the listeners to connect the dots.
The Narrator knows that the message is not his own, so he works hard to understand the ‘back-story’ and seeks to shine the spotlight on the true star of this drama.
Narrators are guides – leading people along a path, pointing to the artifacts of significance so that those that follow may meet the real hero of the story.
The Lawyer is the ‘defender’ of the group. He is the one who will stand in front of the accuser and state his case, while all the while building the confidence of those who sit behind him.
The Lawyer may beat his fist on the bench, yet he may also gently implore. At stake for the Lawyer, is the integrity of the message – and therefore the message giver.
The Lawyer knows that the message is not his own, so he works hard to represent the truth of that message in a way that pleads and convinces. The Lawyer preaches out of conviction, and for conviction, though he knows that it is not his rhetoric that holds the power, but his God.
Lawyers are soldiers – defending the truth, probing at the weaknesses of the enemy, and seeking for the truth to be upheld.
Preaching Styles In Your World
If you are a preacher, what type of preacher are you naturally?
In this world of instant sharing, podcasts, vodcasts, and celebrity Pastors, the pressure is on to emulate your preaching heroes.
At least not in the way you may have been.
Yes – emulate their Godliness. Emulate their hard work in the text. Emulate their faithfulness.
But don’t emulate their style.
If God has made you an Instructor, don’t try to be a Narrator – it just won’t work.
If you don’t preach yourself, but love great biblical preaching – you’ll probably have a preference in preaching style.
So to you I say,
“Cut your Pastor some slack”.
It is most likely that your Pastor is a faithful, hard working, God honouring Preacher of the Word – even if he doesn’t preach in the style you prefer.
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
(Hebrews 13:7, ESV)
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, ESV)
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
(Hebrews 13:17, ESV)
To the praise of His glory!