I’ve written about style before, but it’s worth revisiting. Not surprisingly, I am resonating with much of what Jay Adams wrote about style back in ’82. The reason I resonate is that I still come across pockets of preaching activity that fall into the three inadequate styles he lists in his book (I will quote and condense):
Preacher’s Style – This is a stilted style pockmarked with King James’s terminology and Elizabethan constructions (beloved, unto, beseech, the person of, babe, vale, etc.) This sort of style, unknown to the apostles, who spoke an elevated (by their content) fish-market Greek, or even the translators of the KJV/AV who wrote exactly as they talked. This style is a modern travesty totally without previous history or biblical warrant. Cleanse your preaching of all such “preachy” language.
Scholastic Style – This technical, super-sophisticated and bookish style is equally unhelpful. The great biblical, theological terms must be used, but not without exlanation, nor should be be used in profusion. Don’t sound like a theological treatise (or an academic essay).
Chatty Style – This approach majors on the slang and jargon of the day and lacks all form and order. Again, Adams sees this as unhelpful to effective communication.
Good preaching style is a plain (but not drab), unaffected (but not unstudied) style that gets in there and gets the job done without calling attention to itself. It should always be clear and appropriate to both content and mood. The best analogy Adams sees is the news reader on TV. Our preaching style should not be lower than this, but should be elevated by its content slightly above this standard style with its standard use of language.
That’s Adams take a generation ago, what now? I know some still choose preachy, scholastic or chatty styles. Is there a better standard than the TV newsreader?