Preaching Like the Devil: The High Stakes of Dull or Evasive Sermons

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Russell Moore, writing in Touchstone:

The best way to outwit the Evil One is to anticipate how his powers will seek to counteract your preaching. It’s helpful for me, as I’m preparing to preach, to think of all the ways my own heart seeks to evade the truth of the text. Once, as I was studying to preach on a Beatitude, I realized that I was treating the text exactly the way a liberal would treat a passage forbidding women in the pastorate: “Well, it can’t mean that, what it appears to say, so . . .”

The more you know your people, their struggles and triumphs, and the more you know human nature, the better you’ll know how to preach sermons that can pierce through strongholds and gain attention. That doesn’t guarantee that people will like what you say, but it helps to ensure that they’ll hear it being said.

Also, remember you are speaking for Christ. There’s a passion and a gravity that ought to come with standing in the place of the One who has been granted all authority.

But if you grip people with the drama of the gospel of Christ, if you jolt them into seeing the ancient newness of the Word of God, then you’ll have a demonic insurrection on your hands.

A sermonic information dump—with PowerPoint outline point by sub-point by sub-sub-point—can “safely” distance your people from Christ. A sermon that simply collates and regurgitates what you’ve read in commentaries can make the Word of God a matter of cognition, not submission. A strung-together list of life tips can make it easy for your people to disregard this Word, just as they disregard the weight-loss-plan commercials on television or the flossing ad campaigns they see from the dentist’s chair.

The devil doesn’t mind boring sermons, so long as you allow him to preach, too. He doesn’t mind the Word being heard, as long as it’s the appetites that really enliven his people. And he doesn’t mind the gospel going forward, as long as God’s people hear his accusations of them (and they’re all expository and biblically based!).

Read the whole thing. Or listen to his talk on the topic at an Acts29 Boot Camp: Speaking Past Demons—Christian Preaching As Expository Exorcism.

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