Alistair Begg in his small book Preaching for God’s Glory outlines a number of caricatures of true preaching. He begins this section:
If churches or their pastors begin to think of the place from which messages are delivered to the congregation as a stage, it is inevitable that caricatures of the preacher will emerge to take the true preacher’s place. Sadly, this is precisely what has happened. In our day the expositor of Scripture has been eclipsed by a variety of sad substitutions.
Here they are, complete with paraphrases of what these entail:
- The cheerleader. The preacher’s task is to “pump them up.” He has a need to be liked or accepted, and aims to be positively inspirational. “A good Sunday for him is one where his people laugh a lot, are affirmed and affirming, and go away more self-assured than when they arrived. . . . A quest for wholeness has replaces a concern for holiness.”
- The conjurer. Where the preacher does not want to do the hard work of studying, but rather conjures up his own meaning to the text and fails to discover and look to what the biblical author/Holy Spirit intended by the text.
- The storyteller. Everyone loves a good story more than exposition of the Bible. Thus, they find themselves working on telling a good story rather than working on understanding the Word of God better. While Jesus did use stories (parables), Begg notes that this “does not grant the contemporary preacher the license to tell stories devoid of heavenly meaning that are of no earthly use!”
- The entertainer. This is where the special preacher is not a worshiper with the throng, but is in the green room backstage ready to come on when it’s time. While this is not entirely bad or sinful, this format risks a disconnect between the worshipers seeking to be entertained and the speaker wishing to entertain. Both are worshiping and both have a job to do.
- The systematizer. This is the preacher who “views the text of Scripture as merely the backdrop for a doctrinal lecture. . . The systematizer’s theological framework is so pronounced that it predominates the exposition.” The risk is a lack of passion. Scripture rules the framework, not vice versa.
- The psychologist: Preachers preach on tips on how to raise your children, dealing with impatience, or purchasing flowers for your wife. All of this can be done (and sadly is done) without reference to Scripture, causing listeners to be malnourished. Why? They need a banquet of the Word of God!
- The naked preacher: In an effort to be authentic, the preacher shares all of his faults and foibles, warts and wrinkles to the congregation. The risk is that it becomes an exercise in the pastor being “real” or “relevant”—and ultimately about the one preaching rather than about the One on whom we should be preaching—Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.
Begg goes on to say that there are those who are the “politician,” “end-times guru” or “hobby horse rider.” We have a job to do and an announcement to convey—the Good News of God’s work through the cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Let’s be careful not to get off track.
Any other caricatures you can think of?