What Makes Teaching or Preaching Effective?

Crossing disciplines can often be helpful.  For example, I’m reading a book on teaching entitled The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer.  It is excellent.  While it is aimed toward the teacher or lecturer, it is hitting home in respect to my ministry as a preacher too.

Early on Palmer is describing what makes a good teacher or a bad teacher.  He quotes one student who could not describe her good teachers because they were all so different, but she could describe her bad ones because they were all the same.  “Their words float somewhere in front of their faces, like the balloon speech in cartoons.” Parker notes that bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching, and therefore from their students also.  But good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.

How true this is for preachers too.  We preach poorly when we distance ourselves from our message, but we preach well we make sure the message is coming from inside us and going directly to our listeners.  True preaching, by definition, is the delivery of a text’s message “which the Holy Spirit first applies to the life of the preacher, then through the preacher, to the listeners.” (Robinson’s classic definition).

Remember the simple, yet profound formula in Palmer’s book – effective teaching is much more about identity and integrity than mere technique.


2 thoughts on “What Makes Teaching or Preaching Effective?

  1. Peter, thanks for this post. Teaching and preaching are ministry, which means that they are Spirit-life-infused. Teaching to change lives is cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

    Really appreciate your blog! Keep on teaching us.

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