Tag Archives: passion in preaching

“Go to sleep” Says the Sermon

In his Lectures to My Students, Spurgeon has this little ditty which has always amused me:

It is an ill case when the preacher

“Leaves his hearers perplex’d —

Twixt the two to determine:

‘Watch and pray,’ says the text,

‘Go to sleep,’ says the sermon.

I couldn’t help but think of that as I was re-reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ great classic, Preaching & Preachers.  He notes that a preacher who appears untouched by the truth he’s preaching is not really a preacher at all.  He goes on:

I came across a notable example of what I am condemning recently when I was convalescing after an illness.  I was staying in a village in a certain part of England and went to the local church just across the road from where I was staying.  I found that the preacher was preaching that evening on the prophet Jeremiah.  He told us that he was starting a series of sermons on the prophet.  So he was starting with that great text where Jeremiah said he could not refrain any longer, but that the Word of God was like a fire in his bones.  That was the text he took.  What happened?  I left the service feeling that I had witnessed something quite extraordinary, for the one big thing that was entirely missing in that service was ‘fire.’  The good man was talking about fire as if he were sitting on an iceberg.  He was actually dealing with the theme of fire in a detached and cold manner; he was a living denial of the very thing that he was saying, or perhaps I should say a dead denial.  It was a good sermon from the standpoint of construction and preparation.  He had obviously taken considerable care over this, and had obviously written out every word, because he was reading it; but that one thing that was absent was fire.  There was no zeal, no enthusiasm, no apparent concern for us as members of the congregation.  His whole attitude seemed to be detached and academic and formal.  (p.88)

Sad, no?  It reminds me of a time I visited a Presbyterian church somewhere.  This church had a seminary and their homiletics professor was on the pulpit that Sunday morning.  The poor man had just flown in the day before and was dealing with a bad case of jet lag.  He yawned his way through the whole sermon.  Maybe it was just a bad day for that brother…

Mohler: Conviction and Passion in Ministry


An orthodox preacher of the Word without passion is like a high-voltage wire without a generating station.  Here’s a quote from Albert Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters:

The most faithful and effective pastors are those who are driven by deep and energizing convictions.  Their preaching and teaching are fueled by their passionate beliefs and sense of calling.  With eternity hanging in the balance, they know what to do.  They see every neighborhood as a mission field and every individual as someone who needs to hear the gospel.  They cannot wait until Sunday comes and they can enter the pulpit again, ready to set those convictions loose.  (page 54)

This makes me think of the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was sent mostly with messages of judgment — there wasn’t a lot of good news that he could bring for the foreseeable future.  Reading Jeremiah from front to back can be a bit of a downer.  Yet with that kind of message, Jeremiah said that he was compelled to prophesy and do it with vigour.  He said in Jeremiah 20:9, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”  If that was true for Jeremiah, the prophet of so much doom and judgment, how much more shouldn’t it be true of preachers today entrusted with the good news of Jesus Christ?