Last Friday’s post on pulpit integrity stirred some conversation, so let me stir in another similar area. I think most of us are aware that it is annoying to hear someone “name dropping.” Sometimes the well-known person genuinely is the preacher’s friend, and that is ok to mention. Sometimes they are genuinely friends, but it wasn’t necessary to mention it. It really boils down to two factors – what is the motivation of the speaker, and how is it perceived?
But there is another form of “name-dropping,” so to speak, that is even more prevalent and irritating. It is when a preacher constantly drops the “I” reference, as if they are somebody special.
I think Haddon Robinson wrote in his book that in illustrations we should not make ourselves out to be heroes or jerks. That is, don’t be the amazing protagonist in a sermonic tale, neither make yourself look like a ridiculous buffoon. Neither approach helps your credibility as a preacher, or more importantly, the credibility of the message you are bringing.
I’m sure most of us are really aware of the danger of “bigging ourselves up” when we preach. Most preachers seem really sensitive to not coming across that way. But there are one or two that seem blissfully unaware of how they come across.
I was looking back at some notes I took when one particular preacher was in town and on a roll with the “I” references. (Details obscured to avoid identification!)
“I preached twice in such and such a famous venue . . . I preached with a famous film star in the congregation . . . I’ve been introduced to such and such a politician . . . I have never had a Muslim who could cope with my saying such and such . . . I was preaching in a place after they had been preparing for five years . . . I preached and the mayor was there . . . I was saying to my people on Thursday . . . I preached and he was so soundly converted . . .”
Wow, and I missed some out! I am sure that is an extreme case. I do wonder though, if you know one of these extreme cases, how to point this out to them? Is it ethical to send anonymous links to this post?
For the rest of us, let’s pray for sensitivity that we never come across as full of ourselves. It can easily be done accidentally and the damage done can be hard to undo. Let’s also ask for honest feedback from one or two folks that we trust. Better to know if you name drop the big “I” rather than getting an anonymous link to a post like this one!