Preaching Articles



In the book Sacred Art: Preaching and Theology in the African American Tradition, Olin Moyd quotes Peter T. Forsyth, who said, “The Christian preacher is not the successor of the Greek orator, but of the Hebrew prophet. The orator comes with inspiration; the prophet comes with a revelation.”

Oratorical Talent Alone Is not Preaching

Forsyth is reminding us of some preachers who think that they can get away with oratorical talent rather than Spirit-led inspiration. We all have seen some great orator-preachers. They can elicit a smile, laugh or cry at exactly the right time. Every word is exactly perfect. The voice is a booming baritone that reminds one of James Earl Jones. The “Hallelujah” or the “Praise God” is always in exactly the right place. The messages may “inspire,” but they don’t push us to change. They don’t even ask us to change; they are too busy patronizing us in our sin. They may make us feel good for a little while, but they don’t confront our society or us individually with the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God.

Often these preachers will prostitute the African American Tradition. They may whoop without integrity. In any case, they use the trappings of the tradition without being true to the full tradition that includes societal and individual transformation.

Where Are Nathan and John the Baptist?

The orator doesn’t provide any real change. It is Nathan who is the catalyst for a change in the wayward David. It is John the Baptist whose voice causes such fear that his head had to be chopped off. It is not the purveyors of the status quo who deserve the title “preacher.” No! We do not aspire to have the people say “Man, that is a preacher!” No, we aspire to have the people say “Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened the scriptures” (Luke 24:32).

As you get ready to preach the word next week, yes, be inspiring, but don’t just be that. Yes, have something for the people to shout about, but don’t just do that. Yes, plan the message so that it is in order, but always leave room for the Spirit, who will show up if we only allow it. And if the Spirit truly comes, then our messages will not merely tickle the ears of those who want to consume religious entertainment, but it will be the first step to changed lives and societies and worlds.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Gregory Dumas

commented on May 28, 2014

Amen Brother. Greg D.

Brad Brought

commented on May 28, 2014

May I say Mr. Cox...THANK YOU! I NEEDED this reminder. Since my conversion, I have found myself wanting to be a peace-maker, that is fine to a point, BUT, just as being a GREAT father doesn't ALWAYS make me my daughters best friend, becoming the preacher that God wants me to be, will not always afford me the title of peace-maker. Thanks again, Pastor Brad

Casey Scott

commented on May 28, 2014

This is a great reminder, but I think that the "binary" approach may be restrictive. I don't believe that we have choose one or the other. While brother Cox allowed a "bit of both" in the final paragraph, I would tell a young preacher that he/she needs to strive for both, but in a certain order. First, seek revelation. Then, strive for inspiration. The prophets of the OT were first and foremost God's spokesmen, but they also were literate men who crafted masterpieces of ancient poetry that drove their point home with an effectiveness that was at times beautiful and at other times terrifying.

Jeff Hagan

commented on May 28, 2014

I find it a bit disheartening to see this article addressed to a particular race. Racism and segregation have greatly improved, yet this reminds me that the affects of it remain deeply and subtly engrained within our beings. And before someone disagrees, I am not only referring to the resource he mentions in the first paragraph. He again emphasizes his chosen audience with the phrase specifically identifying "the African American Tradition." May we one day reach a point where our writings, and other communication, among brothers and sisters in Christ are addressed without the need or desire to make it applicable to a specific ethnic group only. God bless all.

Steven Chapman

commented on May 28, 2014

I believe your comment demonstrates an over sensitivity to the issue of race. The phrase "the African American Tradition" was part of the book title he references. While there are other items that reflect that this writer is coming from an African-American heritage, there is nothing in the article that makes what he says "addressed to a particular race."

Arnold Townsend

commented on May 28, 2014

Why I wonder for America to be considered racially healthy all things African-American must disappear. When we recognize our cultural distinctions is not being anti-white. Italians, Irish and others maintain their culture and I am not offended.

Kevin Brown

commented on May 28, 2014

As a pastor that grew up in a christian home steeped inthe african American traditions, this though resonated with my spirit. Yet I see change happening that is truly transformational. A few weeks ago I listened to two messages from the sam preacher. One had to be in the early 70s the other more recent.maybe within the last year. Today the ministy is hugely successful in touching people from all nationalities. But something change. I noticed that there were comom phrases and tones that constituted good preaching that resonated with the culture of that day that was not as apparent in the more recent message. Today's Christian is likely more interested in information than inspiration, education than affirmation. This is what is reflected in the preaching culture today.

Minister Sanders

commented on May 28, 2014

This is a great article and we need now more than ever to teach the Word in season.....and out of season!!!!!

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 7, 2014

It is more easy than ever. God himself is the teacher of the unwritten Word according to the terms of the "new covenant" irrevocably sealed by Christ's unique death.

Steve Miller

commented on May 28, 2014

The church doesn't need orators or prophets as if it's a "one or the other" choice. The church needs gifted TEACHERS who know how, within the traditions of their church to communicate God's word with excellence and effectiveness. Sometimes oratory will be powerful and effective; sometimes the prophetic voice is best; sometimes, the simple explaining and relevant application of truth is best.

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 7, 2014

Suppose "my church" is a necessarily altruistic term for Jesus Christ's divine identity, with absolute authority over death and life, that is better done than said?! Check it out!

Lance Bonner

commented on May 28, 2014

Jeff, I see that you are influenced by the current cultural mindset of "no distinctions." We are one in Christ in terms of relationship. But we are not one in expression. The gospel has distinct cultural expression as evidenced on the day of Pentecost as each person heard the gospel in their own language. What is language but an expression of culture? I think the author of the article is addressing a specific preaching style unique to the African American community. What he is saying is that there are those who use that specific style of delivery without the Holy Spirit's inspiration and conviction. Don't get stuck on the term "African American tradition". Paul mentioned in scripture that he was sent to mainly the Gentiles and Peter was sent mainly to the Jews. Was this wrong to point out this distinction? We can respect cultural expression while still maintaining that we are unified in Christ. Any mention of race does not negate unity if we know what we are saying and why we are saying it. There are diversities of operations but inspired by one spirit--the Holy Spirit. Does not the Holy Trinity show us diversity yet unity?

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 7, 2014

"The Good News from the glorious and blessed God" has no room either for cultural expression or for the so-called theological doctrine of "Holy Trinity".

Ratan Aghamkar

commented on May 28, 2014

Gifted person may be orator or preacher.He speaks heart to heart and not mind to mind.He becomes the tool in the hand of God.No methodology is required in His service.

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 7, 2014

In imitation of Paul, God's service requires only visions and revelations.

Suresh Manoharan

commented on May 29, 2014

A lovely article...thanks Bro. Cox...the clincher was ...We do not aspire to have the people say ?Man, that is a preacher!? No, we aspire to have the people say ?Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened the scriptures? (Luke 24:32).Boy...it sums it up...

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 7, 2014

Well said!

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 7, 2014

The REQUIREMENTS are clear: theology for orators and visions of the self-revealing and instructing God for prophets.

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