Wednesday, March 02, 2016

What Is Preaching? And What Is Not

Perhaps you've heard someone say he didn't like someone's "preachiness," or he said, "stop being preachy." Generally preachiness refers to stylistic aspects of someone's speech.  According to this understanding, someone may not have preached unless he takes on that speech quality.  Certain men haven't "preached" unless they get a "preachy" style of speech, a particular timber and cadence to their voice.  Many mistake this quality for something spiritual occurring.

Preaching isn't a style of speech.  Both the verb "preach" and the noun "preacher" (kerusso and kerux) don't refer to a style of speech.  The "preacher," the kerux, is a herald, that is, he speaks on behalf of someone in authority, a king.  "Preaching" is heralding or proclaiming the king's message.  "Preaching" relates to the content.  It must be the king's message.  If it isn't the king's message, no heralding, no preaching actually took place.

I've heard a lot of speech through the years that wasn't preaching and so the speaker wasn't a preacher.  However, the person did have a preachy voice and style to him that said to many that he was preaching.  I've sat through sermons that were a different message than what God said.  The message didn't represent God, but misrepresented Him.  It was counted as good preaching because of the style, not because of the message.

My first criteria for preaching, how I determine whether it was a success, is that it must be what God's Word says.  It must come from the Bible and it must reveal, unfold, expose what God said in His Word.  If someone delivers in an accurate way what the Bible says, I believe he has preached.  He has succeeded at preaching.  Preaching is the content, not the style.

In other words, someone could use a preachy voice and not preach and use a non-preachy voice and preach.  Any more, as soon as I hear a preachy voice, there is an instinct to think someone is not going to preach.  He's going to be preachy, but he's not going to preach a passage.

I've hinted at a corollary to the theme of this post.  Some people think that the preachy voice means that the Holy Spirit is doing something through someone.  A man speaks in a normal, conversational voice when you talk to him, but he turns into this preachy voice when he gets in front of people for a speech.  The man is talking, but now the Holy Spirit is working in some special way as signaled by the affected style of speech.

Parallel to the corollary of the previous paragraph is the thought that the Holy Spirit is doing something through a man with a preachy voice.   Because he has the preachy voice, the idea is that the hearers are getting something from the Holy Spirit.  The man opens the Bible and begins to preach a message with the preachy delivery and people are moved or smitten or affected by how he does it.  They think that is the Holy Spirit working and it is good preaching.

When someone uses a preachy voice, the standard for whether his speech is preaching hasn't changed. A person still must consider whether what the man is saying is in fact from the Word of God.  He may open the Bible and he may even use words from the Bible, but that does not mean he has preached the Bible. Sometimes, as I wrote before, it is just the opposite.  However, men often are credited with having said something authoritative and as if it were from God without it having been said in the Bible or even in the passage they have used.  It doesn't matter to many in many audiences, because the style transcends the substance of the speech.  He may deliver a false message or one that is of little to no value, but because it was communicated in the affected style, preaching occurred, and the message is accepted.

What I'm describing is a sort of continuationism in thousands and thousands of churches throughout the world.  It exists all over fundamentalism and among independent Baptists.  I don't say this because it is wrong to be an independent Baptist.  I'm an independent Baptist.  Some of what I'm portraying here at its best is bad preaching.  Much of it isn't preaching and yet its hearers not only think it is, but it is good.  This is one of the worst devastation of discernment in churches today.  People rarely hear preaching or good preaching and they don't even know it.  What they are hearing they accept because they think it is of God, because of a feeling they get, that they think is the Holy Spirit.   I know what I'm writing is not only true, but it is prevalent.

Someone might have a contrived vocal quality and still deliver what the Bible says.  I can fight my way through the style to get something from that.  I would rather that he use his normal voice.  I would call that authentic.  Preaching is better when it is authentic.  It is true.  I believe that the person giving it also believes it in part because he is not using a contrived voice.  When I hear a fake voice then it's hard for me to get past the person being a fake.  Like I said, I fight it, when I hear it, but I hope someone reads this, and stops speaking with his fake preachy voice.  Some of those men think they aren't preaching unless they use that voice for reasons I explained above.

When someone uses a preachy voice, I can listen to it and enjoy it if it is biblical in content.  However, something has gone wrong when someone uses a fake voice.  At some point, that person has been conditioned either by what he has heard or by what he has been taught to think that the fake voice is needed to be preaching.  He should use a normal voice, his real voice.  That doesn't mean he must go all out monotone.  If he believes what he is preaching and he cares for his audience, he can communicate it in an interesting way.  Many would call that, keeping it real.

A major influence of what I'm explaining here comes from pastors who have conferences.  They allow men to "preach" who are not actually preaching.  This spreads this false idea of preaching.  These men are failing to prove all things.  This encourages more of the same.  When I attend a conference, first, I want to hear preaching, what is actually preaching.  Second, I want good preaching. I want someone who is skilled at digging out what God says in His Word.  The good preacher studies and then he delivers what he learned form the Word of God in a clear and practical way.  It's better if he argues and provokes thought, like we see with biblical preachers.  Most of all, he needs to tell us what the passage says.

I believe it is very, very harmful when we authenticate non-preaching as preaching and bad preaching as good preaching, just because of its affect on people.  We've got some options with bad preaching. We can walk out on it.  We can stay in a generous way, hoping that it was just an exception, and then talk to the person later.  We shouldn't put up with it.   Putting up with it is why it continues.


Tyler Robbins said...

I haven't had the displeasure of encountering the "preachy voice" phenomenon. Sounds really pathetic.

Farmer Brown said...

What you are saying and have said about emotional appeals seems correct. However, different voices in different settings does not always mean an emotional appeal or an affectation by the speaker. For example, if you were standing with friends at the back of your church building, you would use a completely different tone and style than if you were addressing a group of people who assembled for your birthday.

There is a tone that is suited for addressing a crowd. It is not an emotional appeal, but rather a tone and style that fits that situation. Using a casual conversational style is not fitting to addressing a large gathering, any more than an auctioneer affectation would be fitting to addressing that same crowd.

You speak a little slower and pause a little more. You change your cadence and volume. This is not an affectation or to manipulate emotions, but rather to make what you are saying easier to understand and process. Do you agree with this?

On the other hand, the tremorous voice, the weepy sounding plea, the lofty intonations, this is an obvious appeal to emotion. The speaker is trying to elicit an emotional response.

Anonymous said...


I appreciate this article. I have often been told that what I do is more like teaching than it is preaching. I preach differently from when I teach, but I still have been told that my preaching is more like teaching. What I strive for in preaching, is what you described above as good preaching. Hopefully, that is what I do.

My question is this: What are some things that distinguish preaching from teaching? Both are in the Bible, but I wonder sometimes if we have it right, because we immediately assume that anything that isn't "preachy" must be teaching or neither. What are your thoughts?


d4v34x said...


Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

I would instruct a man to use a command voice at times. It's still his voice and his talking. If someone is talking about something he hates, he should look like he's hating it. That isn't contrived. I think someone can be inauthentic by just reading his sermon too, where it sounds like he is simply reading it, because what he reads doesn't mean enough to him, that is, he's not connecting with what he's preaching. A herald in NT times lifted up his voice so people could hear. I don't do that at home, but I do it with a crowd I'm attempting to lead to do what scripture says. That's all good, but it is also another post, which I might not write at this time, because I think what I wrote about is a bigger problem. Thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...


D4 showed you the low hanging fruit.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Mat, I think scripture shows that teaching is a subcategory of preaching. Teaching should take place in preaching, but it is more than just teaching. You also argue, rebuke, exhort, reprove, correct, etc. Some guys don't care enough about what they're talking about, so that the subject matter becomes dry to some degree because it is not translating in a real way. Paul Revere doesn't say "The British are coming" in a cerebral, matter-of-fact manner. If it is not rising much above a level of indifference, that is inauthentic as well, perhaps more so.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I said thousands of churches have this and when I said that, I was including all the Charismatic ones, the revivalist ones, and then the ones who would say they are neither Charismatic or revivalist, but have been influenced by those and may not know it. I'm quite sure there is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention churches that are like this, among others.

Just as an aside, when I listen to Ted Cruz talk, I hear that he's been influenced by some of this. He has a style that is very preachy, which is one facet of his presentation that turns people off. If I were giving him some personal advice, I'd say, can you develop a speaking style that is less like your either a thespian doing Shakespeare or a "southern evangelist."

Lance Ketchum said...

Good article. I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. It has always amazed me that many think good preaching is speaking loud. I never quite understood how saying something in a really load voice changes the value or content of what is being said. I do not mean that a preacher should not express passion for what he is saying. However passion is reflected in genuine emotions; not manufactured/plastic rhetoric.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Brandenburg,

Thanks for this post. I have two questions.

1.) Could you elaborate on the difference between someone who is unskilled / needs improvement in preaching and someone who is rebellious in this matter? You can take a homiletics class at some Bible colleges and not even learn how to prepare an expository sermon, but that doesn't mean the students don't care about the Word.

2.) Could you comment on Eze 6:11: "Thus saith the Lord GOD; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, ," a passage that has been used to justify preaching with a certain style (and the verse is about preaching at least)?

Thank you.

Kent Brandenburg said...


1) To start, someone needs to know the problem; hence, this post. I'm guessing a lot of readers don't care. I know they don't care. It will be business as usual with very little support of what I'm saying here. They will continue to ignore.

People who are at fault are the people who know and continue to put up with it. Those are people who may agree with what I'm saying and yet continue acting like there is no problem. Start with their conferences being loaded with no preaching and bad preaching.

Just because someone is ignorant doesn't change the preaching. It's still bad. If no one tells the person, he'll likely continue. Some of the no preaching or bad preaching relates to a view of the "call." Someone doesn't or can't preach, but he's called, so there we go.

I'm more sympathetic with ignorant preaching, but it should still not be tolerated. If it is, just because someone didn't have it good, there will be more of it. The behavior will continue and people will continue confused. This might be where most of the problems are today.

2) I'm not saying these types of communication are wrong. I'm saying they are not what preaching is. I smite with hand and stomp my feet too -- lots of stuff is worth doing that for, but I don't stomp for effect.

Anonymous said...

"Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people there transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins." Isaiah 58:1

Do you think Isaiah obeyed God's command?
Don't you think we should do the same in our churches that are filled with sin and transgressions? If God is this passionate and instructed a preacher to do this maybe preachers today would do good to follow this same plan.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Anonymous,

The point isn't reach the highest number of decibels possible -- if their ear drums bleed, it's better preaching. No, don't be silent, get your voice out there, don't hold back, be bold. It's not saying, it will be more effective if it's loud.

Anonymous said...

KENT said: “I want good preaching. I want someone who is skilled at digging out what God says in His Word. The good preacher studies and then he delivers what he learned form the Word of God in a clear and practical way. It's better if he argues and provokes thought, like we see with biblical preachers.”

What if you sit under preaching for years and never learn a thing but are constantly fed practical Biblical principles so that even the very youngest in attendance will either understand or learn but the mature believers remain hungry for some meat? How would you broach this subject with your pastor? Or should we just amen & encourage the preaching?

Leaving my name off intentionally - I do love my Pastor.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Brandenburg,

Having more Bethel Baptist Church sermons up on the website can, I think, help people to see how one can preach with content. I would much rather have people learn how to do expository preaching by listening to you, Pastor Sutton, etc. then by listening to John MacArthur. I'm grateful for the sermons that are up.

One more question – just for clarity, are you saying that "lift up your voice like a trumpet" does not have anything to do with volume?

The ears not bleeding was funny.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I believe, that lifting your voice up is so that you will be heard, so be heard, be bold, don't hold back, not something about it being better if you are like a jet airplane taking off. No one is to try to sound like a trumpet or like the sound of many rushing waters.

Jon Gleason said...

Thank you, Kent. Amen.

As to the teaching vs. preaching question, I'm not sure how you can do either Biblically without doing a little of the other.

Biblical teaching is teaching what the Scripture says, and that HAS to call for a response, or it isn't truly teaching what the Scripture says. And Biblical preaching has to be teaching what the Scripture says, or it isn't true preaching.

There may be a difference, but it is one of falling on different parts of the same continuum. Both are declaring God's truth with a view of eliciting a response in the hearers.