To put it simply, the term amateur can be used in reference to something being done out of a love for it (rather than as a paid job). Or it can refer to something being done in a way that shows lack of skill, being done not very well. Let’s ponder the latter today and finish positively tomorrow.
Amateurishness can be seen in various aspects of preaching:
* Lack of preparation, inadequate study and research, use of poor sources, surface-only work with the text, etc.
* Scattered (dis)organisation of content, poor logical ordering of content, lack of effort with word choices, etc.
* Poor delivery, excessive verbal pauses, um, any self-presentation that appears to be hiding the self out of nervousness (acting like a clown, for instance), etc.
I’m sure we could all list plenty of ways to preach in an amateurish fashion. There is also the bigger picture of the whole service. What people will enjoy in a group of 50 will be intolerable in a group of 250. But there are two further points to ponder here:
1. Critiquing amateurishness is not to say there is no place for weakness. We all have weakness and should preach in a state of weakness rather than prideful self-reliance. What we might critique as amateurishness is more an issue of not preparing properly, or not growing into effective homiletical skill or delivery skill. It is an issue of poor stewardship, not something that we should justify in some sort of reverse sanctification by extension process. By all means let’s appear as fools and as weak to a world that is arrogant in its upside-down state. But let’s let the gospel message itself be the “foolishness” and the “weakness” – not our own lack of good stewardship of the ministry we have the privilege of participating in.
2. Recognize who suffers from unnecessary amateurishness. Here’s the strange thing. When a preacher is genuinely very limited in skill, ability, knowledge, resources, time, etc., then the same perceived weaknesses are often unperceived. But when we simply show a lack of commitment or passion for preaching, then we can’t rely on some loophole that guarantees God’s intervention.
Unbelievers will judge the gospel based not on the gospel, but on our demonstration of its value to us. Believers will be frustrated and distracted so that the focus will be on the poor preacher rather than the wonderful biblical truth. Amateurishness that flows from lack of effort both in the preparation of a specific sermon, and in the longer-term failure to grow in the ministry of preaching, is ultimately an issue of love – a lack of love for the lost, the believers we are supposed to shepherd, and for the Lord who gave everything for us.
Tomorrow we’ll think about the good side of amateur!