Proverbs for Preaching

I spend a lot of my time thinking about preaching. It's a central part of my calling as a pastor, and while I don't pretend to do it particularly well, I do ponder it a lot. For awhile now I've been collecting half-serious axioms expressing my thoughts in the form of Biblical proverbs. Below is a list of some I seek to remind myself of, even as I at times end up on the side of the fool.

I have seen in my life two great ills:
   one who lacks the courage to speak God's Word
      and another who lacks the humility to separate it from his own opinion.

It is good to preach to sinners;
   Better still to preach as one.

An illustration is worth a thousand words;
   They can bring clarity or be a distracting babble.

When declaring grace, apply it directly to your hearers.
   When explaining obedience, include yourself with them.
      When giving rebuke, let them watch you twist on its skewer.

A man has not explained a text
   if all he does is explain it away.

Choosing a text after deciding its message
   Is like dating a girl based on who you want her to be.

A text well-explained says “take up and read;”
   To be unclear or over-technical says “leave it to me.”

Truth and law are the river our hearers must sail;
   Gentleness and grace are the wind that moves them through guilt's current.

A good sermon is like a good mug:
   Full, graspable, and without unnecessary decoration.

Faithful preaching stirs emotions through the text;
   Empty words stir them without it.

Some men look everywhere for the Holy Spirit
   Except in the text they purport to proclaim.

Don't assume it is always the Word that is giving offense-
   The common denominator in all your sermons is you.

Every sermon should have enough conviction to draw blood
   And enough of the cross to heal the wounds it deals.

There are a hundred ways people can err;
   We cement the many by always returning to the same few.

A joke can lighten the heart,
   Relieving it of the weight of respect both for the teller and for God.

Humor is like serving puffer fish.
   Perfectly cooked it is a delicacy;
      The rest of the time, somebody dies.

The word of God is a two-edged sword;
   Applied, it should always cut in both directions.

Truth without application is the worst sort of gift,
   A box with a manual and nothing to build.

If you do not know your hearers in their lives,
   You will never reach them in their pews.

Prayer and preparation both often bring the Spirit,
   But thinking they must is trying to bottle the wind.

Four mysteries I have seen as I have sought to preach:
   The clever point quickly forgotten,
      The illustration remembered but misunderstood,
   The application applied only to others,
      And the unintended truth lodged in the heart that gives life.

Don't be apologetic for preaching about things like money,
   But first ensure yours is where your mouth is, and not your heart.

The sermon begun Saturday evening
   Will be regretted Monday morning.

If you make your wife look a fool in your preaching,
   God will show you as one to those who hear.

Conviction without the cross kills your hearers,
   The cross without conviction leaves them in their graves.
      It is only both together that bring resurrection.

Using God's Word to make yourself look good
   Is like eating uranium because it makes you glow.

The wise man knows he is a glass and God is the light;
   A fool seeks to show in the Word his own reflection.

A little Greek can leaven an insight;
   Any more deadens the ear.

It is a fearful thing to step into the pulpit;
   It must be done only after applying God's commands to yourself
      And then, broken by it, the gospel too.


  1. There once were two men known as pastors,
    Their Sundays were often disasters.
    On Mondays they'd play,
    Sermon prep to delay,
    Till Saturday when they just haster.


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