To me there is nothing more terrible for a preacher, than to be in a pulpit alone, without the conscious smile of God.
—Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 295
Preaching does not have to be an individualistic sort of activity. In fact, great preaching well understands this. The true preacher is not over against the Christian congregation but rather is an expression of the congregation. The true Christian preacher affirms the faith of the congregation, and raises up the hope of the congregation. Much of the genius of great preachers is their ability to express the faith of the people to whom they are preaching.
—Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, 271 (via A Collective Event)
Delivery should be the spontaneous product of the speaker’s peculiar personality, as acted on by the subject which now fills his mind and heart…it implies that one is possessed with the subject, that he is completely in sympathy with it and fully alive to its importance, that he is not repeating remembered words but setting free the thoughts shut up in his mind.
—John Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, 264-265, quoted by John MacArthur in Rediscovering Expository Preaching, 330.
Being “possessed with the subject” and “fully alive to its importance” every preaching opportunity is a supernatural work that I desire and for which I must pray week by week for the Spirit’s help.
Lloyd-Jones protested against the use of the pulpit as what he called “a coward’s castle” into which a man might retreat to vent his spleen on his enemies or simply as a place where he can express his own view.
—Tony Sargent, A Sacred Anointing, 149, via One Form of Pulpit Abuse
Abraham Piper posted about why sermons are easier than other kinds of public speaking, namely, “All pastors have to do is pause—after any point they just made—and then say, ‘Let’s pray.'” I try to apply at least a little more effort at my conclusions than that, but maybe all the extra effort isn’t necessary in light of this comment by Chris Roberts.
It also helps that 80% of the people aren’t listening to the sermon anyway; 15% of the remaining 20% will forget the sermon as soon as they realize you are winding up; and the remaining 5% contains the preacher’s wife, a deacon, and two old ladies looking for ammunition.
-By J. Tyler Scarlett, Pastor of Forest Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia
Could I posses the tinker’s ability for preaching, please your majesty, I would gladly relinquish all my learning.
—Peter Toon, God’s Statesman: Life and Work of John Owen, 162
Matt’s point about Gospel Harmonies also applies to epistle parallels.
If you’re preaching a passage from one of the Gospels and you blend into your sermon all the information found in the parallel passages, oftentimes the end result is a flattening out of all the Gospel accounts so that each of them is made to say exactly the same thing as all the others. In doing so, I fear that you miss out on the distinct contribution that each Gospel writer is trying to make in the context of his own Gospel.
And from the comments, Paul summarizes the point.
Preach the text not the event.
A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savory unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he has provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.
—John Owen, quoted in Contending for Our All, 111
The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God’s words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.