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sean du toit: do you mean it?

Over the years I’ve heard hundreds of sermons – some good, some not so good, and some even on their way to becoming great. But the one thing which distresses me is listening to a ‘gutless’ sermon.  What do I mean? A ‘gutless’ sermon is one that is calculated in every turn, precise in every detail, and perfect in every execution – but it lacks that vital ingredient in good preaching: it lacks a heart set on fire. Two quotes quickly come to mind when I say this:

“Theology is a particularly beautiful discipline.  Indeed, we can confidently say that it is the most beautiful of all disciplines.  To find academic study distasteful is the mark of the philistine.  The theologian who labours without joy is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this field.” (Karl Barth)

“The stereotype of doctrine as dry and dusty cuts a flimsy caricature next to the real thing, which is brave and bracing. Doctrine deals with energies and events that are as real and powerful as anything known in chemistry or physics, energies and events that can turn the world we know upside down.” (Kevin Vanhoozer)

Notice how Barth ends off by stating that “boring ways of speaking are intolerable”, and then Vanhoozer notes the power in theology in the way it can effect change. Or, recall what Paul says to the Thessalonians, that when the apostles came preaching it was “not merely with words, but with power and deep conviction“.  There is something about a heart set on fire for God that preaches with passion. It’s not just about precision and perfect locution. Good preaching is about something in your gut resonating with the truth of what you’re expounding that adds a sense of power and urgency to your words.

The best compliment I have ever received from preaching was an old lady who said, “you preach like you mean it, that gives me hope.”  Is good preaching just about handling the text properly, or getting all the key points explained just the way you wanted, in just the right amount of time?  Or is good preaching about sometimes letting go, and feeling the power of your message so that affects your delivery?  Is silencing your gut all the time, the best way to explain God’s word?  Is it even about being cool, calm and collected, because that suits our personalities?

In other words, is it OK to let that ‘closet-pentecostal’ out, and forget about what people may or may not think, because your heart has been set on fire by the truth of a God who actually cares!  Do you mean it?  Or is this just a job?  Another lecture on a Sunday morning?  Or is it something that can actually change the lives of the people we’re speaking to?

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Sean du Toit is the husband of Sue, a student of Laidlaw-Carey Graduate School, a New Testament lecturer at Alpha Crucis, and more significantly, a follower of Jesus the Lord.

One Comment

  1. Mark Maffey says:

    Hi Sean

    We are called to be whole-hearted in our love for God (Mk 12v30),and David asks that the meditations of his heart and the words of his mouth be acceptable in the sight of his God, his strength and redeemer (Ps.19v14). Me thinks that central to any preacher’s responsibility not only to God but also their congregations, is to preach the word in and out of season with a heart after God that in turn means that their heart for their people clearly comes out in what they speak. Without this a sermon which even though it has been well exegeted and prepared has no way of reaching into the hearts of the audience. The Dry bones need to live, Jesus came that we might have life, and in abundance, as I see if we preach words of life then we have honoured God in serving his people.

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