The Ten Commandments for Preachers

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Sinclair Ferguson, a theologian I highly respect for his mind and pastor’s heart, gives ten commandments for preachers.  Here is how he starts the article:

Listening to or reading the reflections of others on preaching is, for most preachers, inherently interesting and stimulating (whether positively or negatively). These reflections then are offered in the spirit of the Golden Rule and only because the Editor is a long-standing friend!

Forty years exactly have passed since my first sermon in the context of a Sunday service. Four decades is a long time to have amassed occasions when going to the church door after preaching is the last thing one wants to do—even if one loves the congregation (sometimes precisely because one loves the congregation and therefore the sense of failure is all the greater!). How often have I had to ask myself, “How is it possible to have done this thousands of times and still not do it properly?”

Yes, I know how to talk myself out of that mood! “It’s faithfulness, not skill, that really matters.” “How you feel has nothing to do with it!” “Remember you’re sowing seed.” “It’s ultimately the Lord who preaches the word into people’s hearts, not you.” All true. Yet we are responsible to make progress as preachers, indeed evident and visible, or at least audible progress (1 Tim 4:13, 15 is an instructive and searching word in this respect!).

All of this led me while traveling one day to reflect on this: What Ten Commandments, what rule of preaching-life, do I wish someone had written for me to provide direction, shape, ground rules, that might have helped me keep going in the right direction and gaining momentum in ministry along the way?

Once one begins thinking about this, whatever Ten Commandments one comes up with, it becomes obvious that this is an inexhaustible theme. My friend, the Editor, could easily run his journal for a year with a whole series of “My Ten Commandments for Preaching.” I offer these ten, not as infallible, but as the fruit of a few minutes of quiet reflection on a plane journey.

  1. Know your Bible better.
  2. Be a man of prayer.
  3. Do not lose sight of Christ.
  4. Be deeply trinitarian.
  5. Use your imagination.
  6. Speak much of sin and grace.
  7. Use the “plain style.”
  8. Find your own voice. 
  9. Learn how to transition.
  10. Love your people.

Read the rest of the article to see how he fleshes out this list. 

(HT: Justin Taylor)

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