I suspect that if we’re honest, we’d all admit that preaching leads to numerous battles with pride. Perhaps not every time, perhaps not in the same way as each other, but there is an inherent danger that points of pride will peek through when we preach. Much of this may be an internal battle unseen by others except the Lord. But sometimes in our preaching we do things that can reveal, or be perceived to be, pride peeking through. A few examples:
1. References to “scholastic matters” – You know what I mean, the extra reference to a dispute among commentators, an unnecessary quotation from the Greek/Hebrew, a technical term (punctiliar aorist, genitive absolute, etc.), an unnecessary excursus into matters of textual criticism, unnecessary citation details showing how much you’ve read, etc.
2. Allusions to “hidden stores of knowledge” – This is more subtle, but some of us fall into it. It’s where you open the door to a subject, only to immediately close it with some passing reference to “that is for another time” or “so much we could say about that…” Sometimes it helps to let people know you’re aware that more could be said about a matter, but sometimes it can come across as prideful parading of unrevealed knowledge.
3. Demonstrations of “foreign language competence” – I remember reading a theology book and getting very annoyed by the author quoting in Dutch and Norwegian (as well as Latin, French, German, Spanish, etc.), all without English translation. Ostentatious to say the least. But actually in our preaching it can be tempting to throw in a foreign phrase or quote. Depending on the audience this may connect very effectively, or it may just look prideful.
4. Narratives of “personal illustration” – Haddon Robinson always said that an illustration shouldn’t make you look like a jerk or a hero. Tempting though. A story in which you gave a stunning response in the moment, or where others acclaimed your skill, or yet another reference to your prize winning exploits in the county fair vegetable competition, or “when I met Billy Graham…” Maybe it is a good illustration, maybe it does help the message, but think carefully how it comes across, because if it smacks of pride, it will leave a sour taste.
So I readily hold my hands up as guilty of all four charges. Perhaps you do too. Let’s think through the next message and try to eradicate any hint of pride so that nothing will detract from the God of whom we preach, who is worthy of all honour!