This series of posts has pondered the issue of preaching tone. I’ve suggested we should understand the tone of a text and consider carefully the tone of the message. Communication between people is rarely, if ever, purely informational. Communication from God is never dispassionate. He cares about people who will listen to our preaching. So as well as considering the tone of the text, the situation of the listeners, and the tendencies of ourselves as preachers, we also need to pursue God’s heart in respect to the sermon. What does God want to happen? What tone would reflect his concern for the situation?
So to finish, let me highlight a danger and then two things to pray . . .
Danger: Considering the tone of a presentation is vitally important, but it does open up the dangerous possibility of inauthenticity. If I am going to say something important to my wife, I would be foolish to not consider how the tone will come across. But once I start thinking about tone, there is always the danger of faking something and launching into a performance. When it comes to preaching, a performance never represents God well because God does not pretend. God does not fake emotion. When God speaks, God speaks with pure and authentic passion. If we pursue “effective preaching” by looking at matters of tone, then we are in danger of inauthenticity unless we are gripped by the conviction that we must represent God not only in what we say, but by our character as we speak. Though flawed and broken, somehow we get to speak for God. Ambassadors. We represent. This kind of danger demands that we be prayerful about the privilege of preaching.
Prayer Point 1: Discernment. Pray for God to give you discernment. To be able to discern the intent of the biblical author and the need of your listeners. And to be able to discern God’s heart for them, as well as God’s perspective on you. Instead of asking God to be able to discern the state of your own heart as you approach a preaching engagement, better to ask him to do the searching and trying and weighing and to lead you into a place where you can preach in a way that represents his heart most effectively.
Prayer Point 2: Courage. It is much safer and easier to preach dispassionately as if preaching were mere presentation of material. Arms length. Uninvolved. But preaching calls on us to love people enough to be real with them. It calls us to preach as one who represents Christ the Word of God. Just as Christ was not universally loved by the lost and by the religious, so we might find our hearts trampled as we give ourselves away in preaching ministry. That takes courage. Pray for it, because the Lord knows what its like to represent the Father well and to suffer as a result.