Passion isn’t bad, but it isn’t enough

I’ve seen a number of blog posts recently about sermons, most of which have been good. They’ve argued for expounding the text in front of the preacher, putting the passage in its context (both in terms of the Bible story and redemptive history), and applying the text to the people in front of them. But there’s one other thing that I’d like to flag about preaching… passion isn’t everything.

It’s marvellous to see a preacher who has understood the text in front of them, who have been challenged by it and then to communicate it powerfully to the people in front of them. However, a varied voice and arm gestures are not what keeps a pulpit upright.

Over the years I have heard plenty of sermons. I’ve sat under teaching, I’ve taught preachers, I’ve given input and feedback on sermons and still one of the things that people often comment on is the passion of the preacher. Which is all good and well, but it isn’t the main thing.

The main thing that points to a sermon being good and beneficial for the listeners is whether the sermon is faithful to God’s Word. If it isn’t, you can have all the passion you want and it won’t be a good sermon. As preachers our job is to let God’s Word lead.

But there are also sermons where the preacher simply pulls out short sound bites from the text. They aren’t bad, they’re just obvious. But if those things are communicated in a passionate way then often you’ll find nodding heads and maybe even hear an “Amen!” (Depending on your church background).

Passion isn’t bad, but it isn’t enough. People need to dive into the depths of God’s Word, not merely paddle on the surface. People need to bathe in the wonder of God’s majesty not just get simple sound bites to carry them through the week.

Soundbite preaching can produce what I call ‘Duracell Christianity’ the idea that church is a place for Christians to recharge before heading back into the big bad world throughout the week. That’s just not true! The church should be a place where the Lord’s people gather out of a desire to see Him glorified, to sit under the teaching of His Word and to encourage one another with truth from the Bible.

There’s nothing wrong with passionate presentation, but mere passion alone isn’t enough. Think about what and how you preach. Do you make much of Jesus, or are you the focus? Passion isn’t bad, but it isn’t enough.

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