Vulnerability in preaching

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by JTB.SDG, Apr 22, 2018.

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  1. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    I know a ton of wisdom needs to be exercised in being open about weaknesses and struggles from the pulpit. Sharing too much can be dangerous. But it also seems to me that sharing too little about these things can be just as harmful and dangerous for a flock. When it comes to vulnerability from the pulpit, how much of this is personal preference versus right or wrong? Is it wrong for a preacher to never talk at all about personal struggles or weaknesses? Or does that just relate more to preaching style and personal preference? Any thoughts?
     
  2. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    It seems strange to make pastoral confessions a necessary part of preaching, however, the man's strengths, weakness, and graces should be a visible part of his ministry as a whole.

    "But the servant of Christ, whatever his method be, is to perform his whole ministry:

    6. With loving affection, that the people may see all coming from his godly zeal, and hearty desire to do them good. And,

    7. As taught of God, and persuaded in his own heart, that all that he teacheth is the truth of Christ; and walking before his flock, as an example to them in it; earnestly, both in private and publick, recommending his labours to the blessing of God, and watchfully looking to himself, and the flock whereof the Lord hath made him overseer: So shall the doctrine of truth be preserved uncorrupt, many souls converted and built up, and himself receive manifold comforts of his labours even in this life, and afterward the crown of glory laid up for him in the world to come." The Directory for the Public Worship of God


    In other words,, the minister is to be himself, and not present himself as a caricature of what people think a minister should be. He is not a rock star that must always present an image that his fans expect.

    As an inexperienced pastor I was often tempted to hide my own struggles for fear that the congregation would lose faith in my abilities. I was tempted to put on airs for the sake of strengthening my ministry.

    Obviously, it is better to "take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
     
  3. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    The preacher's experience with his own weaknesses ought to inform his preaching. Whether this tends to show up in the sermon as personal stories or not will depend on the preacher. Some excellent preachers have done this, while others have not.
     
  4. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Great question. Although you should watch out for spiritual pride in this instance. A bit of self-flagellation, Reformed-style...
     
  5. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Jon:

    I think that the preacher should speak from an open, honest, broken heart: a profound sense of his own sinfulness and that of his auditors, coupled with the blazing reality that the only remedy for sin has appeared in our Savior, whose grace is always and at every point greater than our sin.

    I think that this will put him in the proper place for whatever self-disclosure may be fitting in any given circumstance. I do believe, as Spurgeon did, that the preacher most fully and properly lives in the pulpit and that he is as candid there as he needs to be.

    One of the best things that I was ever taught in seminary is that the most important preparation is that of the heart of the preacher (assuming that he's done, as those in our circles tend to do, all that he needs to do respecting the text in both of its horizons).

    Come into the pulpit full of your text and with a broken heart and that's the right place to be.

    Peace,
    Alan
     
  6. mgkortus

    mgkortus Puritan Board Freshman

    Wise advice has already been given.

    Let me suggest reading/listening to Paul David Tripp. I greatly respect his willingness 'to show some dirt,' as it were. He uses examples from his own life to illustrate the sinfulness of the human heart. But, he does so in a careful way without calling undue attention to himself. Perhaps look to him as an example. More concretely, his book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands has a section on using one's own story.
     
  7. Kaj

    Kaj Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks, @mgkortus. A friend of mine highly recommends Paul Tripp's 'Dangerous Calling' for similar reasons, but especially as a warning to pastors against an overealised sense of 'accomplished-ness' in their holiness
     
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