Recently I was guest preaching at a church, and a woman came up to me after the sermon and said to me, “You preach with such kindness.” I have not been able to shake that remark ever since (and not just because it was a compliment!). It seemed significant to me for a couple of reasons.
First, the text I was preaching from was Genesis 18:16-33, where Abraham is interceding for Sodom, and “kindness” is not exactly the first impression one would take away from the passage. Additionally, this church conducted two services, and I was concerned after I preached the first that I had not made a significant enough tonal shift from my focus on the just wrath of God for sinners to the good news of Christ’s absorbing God’s wrath at the cross. The first two-thirds of my sermon in fact had a very serious focus on sin, justice, and condemnation. Prolonged and sober, it was perhaps as close to “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” as I’ve ever preached, and I was afraid I hadn’t shifted enough into a more joyous disposition when I got to the climax of the good news.
But the woman’s remark also seemed significant to me, because it was such a unique appraisal. When was the last time you classified preaching as kind? Do you think, by and large, preaching today could be characterized by kindness?
I did receive the remark as a compliment, as I said, and found it hugely encouraging. Kindness is of course an important facet of the pastoral disposition, and preaching is a primary task of pastoral ministry. I think I want to pursue more kindness in my preaching, and I think that, if you preach, you should too. Here are three reasons why:
1. Kindness goes with the grain of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit includes kindness (Gal. 5:22); thus, preaching that can be characterized as kind is aligned with the supernatural power of God. If you want the true power of your preaching to be Spiritual and not simply rhetorical, you will mirror the disposition of the Spirit to those whom he was indwelled.
Preaching can be many other things as well — stern, fiery, light-hearted, or heavy-hearted — depending on the tone of the text being preached, but it should never be un-kind, as the Spirit of God comes with kindness (2 Cor. 6:6). Kindness in preaching exhibits the compassion — the “alongside-love” — that faithful pastors have for their flocks.
2. Kindness is a command.
Micah 6.8. Zechariah 7:9. Ephesians 4:32. Colossians 3:2.
Kindness isn’t optional. We are told to “remember” it, “love” it, extend it, and even put it on. Do not be afraid that preaching with kindness is some kind of squishy softening. It may involve incorporating a more gentle tone to your voice or a more pastoral approach to your content — or both — but it is not, properly applied, the wrong kind of compromise.
Do you always sound mad at your people? (Would they say that, even if you wouldn’t?) If so, why? Remember that the hallmark of the Lord’s shepherds is that they comfort God’s people, speak tenderly to them, and come bearing the message of peace and forgiveness (Is. 40:1-2). And this isn’t a matter of personality types or styles of speaking that you can put on and off — it is a matter of obedience.
3. Kindness commends the gospel.
Do you want your people to be good repenters?
Of course you do. Well, Paul writes in Romans 2:4 that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.
In Titus 3:4-7, Paul describes the good news of Christ’s cross and resurrection as the appearance of God’s goodness and kindness.
Because the gospel is precisely that — good news — our proclaiming of it ought to be filled with the reality that it is the most kindhearted thing ever done by the God whose lovingkindness is forever. If you preach the good news in a frequently boring way or angry way or flippant way, you do not make it sound true. Many men preach the good news in ways that make it sound bad, which is really just a way to make it sound untrue. But if you preach with kindness, you will adorn the saving message with actuality, with beauty and believability.
The gospel’s power doesn’t need us, of course. It is power in spite of us, and the Holy Spirit relies neither on our eloquence nor our emotionality to do whatever he pleases. But because the Spirit condescends to use how we preach, we ought not forget to reflect God’s kindness when we preach it.