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preach from the heart – simon mcleay


“Preach from the heart”, these are the words that keep coming back to me as I think about preaching today.  I could talk about technique, I also go back and forward between preaching from a script to preaching form just a series of topics.  I sometimes spend hours over the PowerPoint and sometimes just pop up a simple slide behind me.  But I’ve been interrupted in my journey recently by a figure from a different culture.  Through some connections in our congregation we hosted a seminar with Jackie Pullinger (from Hong Kong) last month.  She’s a surprising woman, strong, direct and a little intimidating, but she also has a passion for the ministry of every Christian and a passion for the lost and poor of our world.

She told us a story about a pastor who had gone to the North of England for 5 years some time ago, because he had heard there was going to be a revival there.  The revival didn’t come and he left.  Jackie was horrified that he had been chasing the revival and that he wasn’t there ‘for the sheep’. Jackie spoke for 10 hours over 2 or 3 days, and there were only 2 or 3 times I remember such raw emotion in her voice.  It had two effects on me, firstly it made me really think about my motives, “Do I want to be a great preacher, or do I want to love the sheep.”  Of course I want to do both, but I find it so easy to get caught up in what I am saying.  Preach from the heart of Jesus to his people.  Secondly it reminded me of the impact when I reveal just how much I feel about some subjects.

Later I was reading Jackie’s book ‘Chasing the Dragon’, about the early years of her ministry in Hong Kong.  She quotes something that was said to her by a gang leader four years into her time in Hong Kong, I think it speaks of integrity of heart that shouts the loudest prayer.  “We couldn’t care less if you have big buildings or small ones.  You can be offering free rice, free schools, judo classes or needlework to us.  It doesn’t matter if you have a daily program or hymn singing once a week.  These things don’t touch us because the people who run them have nothing to do with us.  What we want to know is if you are concerned with us.”  Wow! What a statement from the community; what a question from our listeners.  When we stand up to preach, do our sermons reflect our love for the sheep, and does our love for the sheep reflect His love for the sheep?


  1. Cam Gracey says:

    Thanks Simon. I think you raise a great point, and a relevant one in the current day. I agree that the preacher ought to preach from “the heart” in that the message ought to be one of “truth through personality.” It ought to be a sincere message and indeed a selfless one that has the congregations best intentions at it’s heart – namely to know God and enjoy him forever by restoring the rule of God almighty in hearts of men. (If it’s something else then it’s idolatry.)

    To this end I reckon it is crucial for the preacher to have an attitude of prayer as they prepare the message. Praying for those to whom they are called to love as they wrestle with the Word in order that they may communicate faithfully clearly in the vernacular.

    Yet, in saying this, I acknowledge that at time my own heart is deceitful, so for me personally I’d want to be a little careful in telling people to “preach from the heart” as that can be misunderstood. For me (I’m a Kiwi I love affirming people!) that can too often mean tickling peoples ears with what they want to hear, amusing them with my whimsical stories while avoiding the nitty gritty….giving them marshmallows when they need steak and greens!

    I read an article about Charles Simeon today which had a great quote which I thought speaks into this;

    “My endeavour is to bring out of Scripture what is there and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head: never to speak more of less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding”

    I guess I’m just saying I’d let God and his Word be the driving factor in it all, not my heart.

    Thanks again – preach it bro!

  2. Hi Simon – good to hear your thoughts on this. I agree. As a massive generalisation I would say that in the settings I’ve been people have expected preaching to appeal to the mind and ‘worship’ (by which is often meant the singing time) to appeal to the heart. I like it when ‘worship’ relates to head as well as heart (after all Jesus did say love the Lord you God with all your ‘mind’ as well as heart, soul and strength) and preaching that relates to heart as well as to head. After all, we are whole people – not merely a head or merely a heart.

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