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Paul addressed the issue of sincerity in preaching on several occasions throughout the New Testament. One such instance is 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” As I have reflected on this verse, it’s given me some comfort to know that the issues that plague modern Christianity also faced the apostles. I’ve also found an important principle in preaching: sincerity.

There are false teachers, hucksters and impostors in pulpits across the land today. There were in Paul’s day, too. It’s nothing new, and it will only worsen as we approach the day of Jesus’ return. But the contrast to this trend is a new trend of sincerity in the pulpit. Preaching has been defined by D. Martin-Lloyd Jones as “the communication of God’s truth through human personality.” So we preachers get to represent God’s truth through our very personality.

The prayer, “Hide me behind thy cross, O Lord,” doesn’t reflect an accurate understanding of what preaching is all about. God has called me to represent Him as only I can, and for you to do the same.

So sincerity is a key to effective communication. You can’t fake sincerity for obvious reasons, but you can certainly do a self-test to ask the tough questions…

1. Do I really believe what I’m saying?

2. Do I live what I’m asking others to live?

3. Am I preaching as me or as Billy Graham?

4. Am I wearing a mask or being transparent?

5. Am I preaching at people or having a teaching conversation?

I greatly appreciate fine oratory. Two generations ago and further back, oratorical skills were at the top of the list of qualifications for great preaching. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, if preaching can be viewed as a creative art, then we certainly ought to make it pretty for God’s glory.

And words are certainly the tools of our trade, so we should study them and utilize their power. Nevertheless, preaching is still a conversation that takes place between a preacher and each member of his congregation. It ought to come from the heart.

One of my own heroes was W. A. Criswell, who often referred to himself (making light of what others were already pointing out) as “a holy roller with a Ph.D.” I’ve listened to hundreds of his messages over at WACriswell.org, and I can tell you this genius of a man involved his emotions in the communication process, as should we today. It’s part of sincerity—bearing all.

Sincerity is one of my own core preaching values, but again, it can’t be faked. It’s not something you prepare for, or it probably isn’t sincerity. So how do you bear your honest heart for a greater impact in communicating the gospel?

Believe the truth

It’s my strong opinion that those who do not trust the entire Word of God as the whole, pure and perfect book that it is should not be in a preaching ministry. Period. We may not understand it all, but we can certainly take God’s Word at face value if we’re going to claim to represent it.

Prepare Well

Preparation prevents faking it in the pulpit. One HUGE rule of preaching is “don’t just make stuff up!” So study, prepare, work hard. Every Sunday is a test of your dedication and commitment to the Word.

Preach Without Notes

This adds time and energy to preparation. You not only have to compile material and arrange it in a way that makes sense, but you must commit it to memory. For me, I memorize my major points. If I’ve studied well, the sermon flows from the heart rather than having to leap off the page.

Make Eye Contact

See the eyes of your people when you preach to them, and you’ll see a piece of their heart as well. Of course, preaching without notes helps this process a great deal, but even if you use notes, glance at them and then return your attention to those from whom you’ve asked attention.

Tell Your Story

Every sermon represents biblical and doctrinal truth, but it also says something about your life, so tell your story. Your testimony and experiences mean a great deal to your congregation. They know you more by hearing about your personal life, so let them in and they’ll trust you more and respond well when you have to apply the truth in highly convicting ways. And, humorous and painful stories create highly teachable moments in the congregation.

Live It Out

Jesus embodied all of God’s truth. He “tabernacled” Himself among us. He is God wrapped in human flesh. We ought to follow in His steps and be God’s truth, wrapped in flesh. Sermons are not just taught on Sunday but demonstrated daily as we are observed by those who listen to us. We live life in a fish bowl to some degree, so put on a show—not the kind where you act like a believer, but where you become a trophy of God’s marvelous and powerful grace.

Love Your Listeners

One of the things I pray before every sermon is “Lord, help me love the people as I preach.” It’s easier to get messy in ministry when we love people the way God does. And what we say matters to people only when we’ve loved them in saying it.

Do It All Over Again

Sincerity goes along with consistency. We must be sincere week in and week out. There must be a pattern. Sadly, one mistake can blow our testimony for a long time into the future, so we must live consistently, prepare consistently and preach consistently.

Sincerity matters in preaching. It’s a key value, a core component of effectively representing the gospel and communicating God’s truth in this present age. In fact, we need it more than ever!

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Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 2, 2014

I would beg to disagree. We've seen sincerity faked in the pulpit for years and are greatly surprised when these preachers prove other than what they seemed. But what cannot be "faked" comes rather from 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." The ONE indispensable resource in preaching is the Spirit.

Jonathan Hughes

commented on Sep 2, 2014

People think a building is a temple. That makes people war killing people thinking nothing of it.That mentality made ISIS. That mentality made USA law and Sharia law too. 1 Corinthians 6:19King James Version (KJV) 19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

Michael Garner

commented on Sep 2, 2014

I agree that sincerity is critical. (As Mr. Irwin said, it is also necessary to sincerely speak truth.) Most people I know have a pretty sensitive "baloney" meter and can figure out whether you really stand for what you say or if you are faking it. I will say that I have reached a stage in life where preaching without notes is skating on thin ice (at least for me). My memory is not what it used to be and -- especially given my personal tendency to chase rabbit trails when I wing it -- I do much better with bullet points and an outline to stay on track.

Bill Rogers

commented on Sep 2, 2014

Excellent article!

Louis Smith

commented on Sep 3, 2014

A memorized sermon can be as insincere as a "read" sermon, or any kind of sermon a preacher can preach. Memorized does not necessarily mean "sincere." And read does not necessarily mean "insincere."

Edson Siwella

commented on Sep 7, 2014

Louis : a colleague of mine (Dr Williams) told a story of a man who was preaching in Hyde Park,London. The man had his papers and notes alright. He preached as he best he could, struggling against the wind blowing his notes. . . His head went from 'notes' to 'audience'. ..notes-to-audience. . on and on till someone from the audience shouted out :"If YOU cannot remember your own notes how do YOU expect us to?".

Denise Hill Payton

commented on Sep 4, 2014

Sincerity is a quality that is blatantly lacking in today's Preachers. It is the missing link that makes you go "something here is not right". As Preachers and Pastors is our job to live what we preach as well as believe it, otherwise we are just meaningless speakers.

Tovishe Sumi

commented on Sep 4, 2014

yes it is 100 true but sad to know sincerity preacher are few and that is the reason of few sincerity believers in the Churches

Edson Siwella

commented on Sep 7, 2014

. . sincerity seems to carry the tag "from the heart - yes. . some kind of experienced message. . . not just theories and vain philosophies". . . in categories akin to Jon 1:12 incarnation of the Word. Makes it easier to 'collect the crumbs afterwards. . . and feed another hungry crowd.

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