The Wrong Kind of Uncomfortable

You’ve probably heard it said that good preaching comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable (or something similar).  While this may be true, it is also possible to make listeners uncomfortable in the wrong way.  Here are a couple of examples:

1. Pushing naturally unresponsive people to verbally respond your way, rather than theirs. For example, I’ve been in congregations when the preacher has asked, “do I hear an amen?”  Upon hearing nothing more than a murmur, the question has then been repeated with greater zeal.  Eventually one person overcomes all personal angst and shouts an amen (essentially delivering all from the tension of the moment).  Some people reading this are wondering how any group could be so unresponsive.  Don’t condemn them without knowing them.  And don’t worry about it (unless you end up preaching to this kind of culture, denomination, age range, etc.)  A good preacher will be sensitive to those listening and not force them to behave in a way that may fit the preacher’s personality, but doesn’t fit theirs.  (Also, I’ve been in situations where the people may be willing to respond, but only the speaker knows what was just said that deserves a verbal response – don’t ask for response if you are not a clear communicator…they might feel dishonest if they give what you’re looking for!)

2. Showing emotion inconsistent with your words. In a similar vein, it can be very uncomfortable to listen to a preacher who does not match personal emotional expression to sermon content.  Don’t have a silly grin when talking about hell – even if you are uncomfortable for whatever reason.  Don’t be dead-pan if you are preaching on joy.  Don’t be slouching and uninterested when declaring the greatest news ever.  As I heard Piper say recenty in an interview – preachers need affectional breadth.  (In fact, I forget his exact words, but essentially he said that preachers who are restricted or limited in their affections – that is, breadth of heart response to God and people, rather than the ability to contrive emotional expression – such people should not be preaching.)

Preach in such a way that your emotional expression fits who you are and what you are saying.  Preach in such a way that your listeners can be themselves as listeners, rather than having to mimic you.

Any further thoughts related to this?


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