I think you have to be very careful when it comes to preaching about preaching. It is tempting to do so. After all, Christianity is a revelation based faith, flowing from a speaking, self-revealing and relational God, with a big emphasis on the importance of preaching (despite the frequent attempts to deny its importance). But to get side-tracked into preaching about preaching seems to be a precarious ledge with some deep ravines on every side. For example:
1. Who are the listeners? If you are preaching at a pastors’ conference then it is probably highly appropriate to preach about preaching. But if the listeners are a normal congregation, then what is your goal? Are you intending to intimidate those who are scared to death of “preaching” (but may be capable of witnessing under other labels . . .) Are you hoping to train them to discern (and if so, will they discern well as a result, or just discern in line with your personal preferences?) Or is your goal not so much what the listeners will do with what is said, but to make a comparison? If so, then there is the double danger of criticising inappropriately other servants of the Lord, or of becoming self-laudatory. There are reasons to preach about preaching, but beware of these dangerous traps.
2. How is your ego? Anytime we talk about what we give a large chunk of our life to doing, there is a danger that the ego might run free and leave a bitter taste of self-congratulation and arrogance. There are different preachers, different approaches to preaching, different theologies propagated through preaching and different schools of thought in respect to every aspect of preaching. It is important to think through any inherent critique before you make it. It may be very appropriate to graciously critique some aspects of preaching (i.e. those who do not preach what the text is saying), but very dangerous to critique secondary matters (such as certain styles . . . that preacher who sits on a bar stool and uses humour at times may actually be a far more biblical and Christ-honouring preacher than a more traditional style individual who seems to fit a particular mold you may be comfortable with).
It is sometimes appropriate to preach about preaching (not least when the preaching text is about preaching, although even then, we sometimes need to abstract slightly in order to apply to non-preachers). But we need to be careful not to let our egos creep in and turn an opportunity to serve others into a self-patting exercise. We often get more ego stroking after preaching than we deserve already, let’s not waste our preaching in doing the same for ourselves.
One thought on “Preaching About Preaching”
Well said, well written, well explained, and well I have learned something about listening to other preachers preach and learned something about my own preaching,.