Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 1, 1959

On Good Preaching

W. W. Otey, Winfield, Kansas

Successful preaching has in it three qualities: (1) clearness, (2) earnestness, and (3) force. Let a man strive to be so clear that even the dullest will understand, so earnest that even the coldest will feel, and so forceful that even the most obstinate will be moved.

But in striving to be clear do not confuse clearness with tedious repetitions; and in striving to be earnest do not mistake an assumed "holy tone" piety for true emotions of the heart; and in seeking for forcefulness do not mistake noise for force. It may be safely said that "force" in preaching is a combination of clearness, earnestness, and personal strength. Let a preacher study his subject till the phases of it stand out before his mind as clear and sharp as the fingers of his hand when held before his eyes. Certain it is that if the speaker does not himself clearly understand his subject, he can never make his hearer understand it. Failing in such, his sermon will be largely a medley of words that may stir the emotions, but will not enlighten the mind.

The earnestness that draws the hearer is the feeling that comes from a sincere faith and love of the truth. The speaker cannot make the hearer believe and love the truth unless his own heart is overflowing with that selfsame belief in and love for the truth. The preacher, to the extent he influences his hearer, leaves either an image of himself or an image of Christ in the mind of his listener. This explains why some are "converted to the preacher" instead of being converted to Christ; the preacher has "preached himself" rather than preaching Christ. Here is a solemn thought, indeed, for preachers to ponder. It takes a truly humble man to "hide himself behind the cross" and preach only Christ and him crucified. Perhaps it is left for us who are so very near the portals of glory to see this in its true light. We will all be humble when we stand before Him; we should seek for some measure of it now!