Lecture 4 – in Relation to Himself

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II. The Preacher in Relationship to Himself in the Act of Preaching

– Introduction

1.  An explanation concerning the approach to this subject

Preaching involves the entirety of our redeemed humanity.


2.  The biblical foundation for this approach to this subject consists of two crucial issues

a.  Edification

1 Cor. 14:26b, 32

b.  Self–control

Gal. 5:23
1 Cor. 9:25
1 Cor. 12:1-2

Geoffrey B. Wilson, 1 Corinthians A Digest of Reformed Comment, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1978), p. 207.

Joshua H. McIlvaine, Elocution: The Sources and Elements of Its Power, (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1895), pp. 165-166.


3.  Qualification, caution, and direction concerning this approach

a.  These principles demand critical analysis and conscious efforts for correction, cultivation, and improvement.

b.  With few exceptions this effort must not be carried on in the pulpit.

Self-forgetfulness should characterize us as our minds are taken up with our subject, God and those to whom we are speaking.

William M. Taylor, The Ministry of the Word, (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1876), p. 72.

c.  Without keeping this issue clearly in your mind you will find two things militating against the cultivation of effective preaching: paralyzing fatalism and crippling preoccupation.

d.  Our goal must be 1 Tim. 4:15.


A. The preacher’s physical condition, appearance and bearing, or pulpit deportment

1.  Your general physical condition in the act of preaching itself

If you neglect this, there will be an erosion of confidence on the part of your hearers and a diminishing of your ability to give yourself to the rigors of preaching.

John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005), p. 482.

Appendix #2 for McIlvaine on the Physical well-being of the preacher

Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Minister’s Self-Watch” in Lectures to My Students, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008.) p. 2.

2.  Clothing

Gen. 3:21
1 Cor. 9:19-23
2 Cor. 6:3–4a

Geoffrey B. Wilson, 2 Corinthians A Digest of Reformed Comment, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), pp. 81-82.

a.  Cultural compatibility

1 Cor. 9:19-23
2 Cor. 6:3

b.  Christian modesty

1 Tim. 3:2

c.  Aesthetic sensitivity

Gen. 1:31

David McCullough, John Adams, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), pp. 585-586.

d.  Sanctified flexibility



1) Don’t be so “spiritual” as to minimize these things. It is not a biblical spirituality which is unconcerned with gaining men’s favor with the view to saving them. Nor is it biblical spirituality that is unconcerned about giving unnecessary offense to the people of God.

2) Granted, Christian biography reveals that there have been some men of great gift who have been considered eccentrics regarding these matters and apparently got away with it. But did they really? How many others might have been touched and blessed by their ministry had they been more sensitive to these perspectives relative to these issues.

3) A good rule of thumb is this. Be so adorned that you can show up with a new suit, shirt, or tie, and few people would even notice it. You should aim at not distracting the minds of people because of your adornment on either end of the spectrum.

4) You can dress well and acceptably and yet relatively inexpensively.  Thrift shops are not closed to preachers

5) A close colleague of the late Dr. A. W. Tozer relates the incident of Tozer being approached by a hyper-spiritual woman who asked him the question “Dr. Tozer, what is the 1st thing you think about before you ascend the pulpit? His answer was, “Ma’am, I always check my zipper!!!”


3.  Grooming

a.  Under this heading I include such things as hairstyle, present condition of your hair, your fingernails, both their length and their cleanliness. Your shoes, neat and well shined or scuffed and unshined, a clean and well-ironed handkerchief, the style and placement of your glasses if you wear them, etc.

b.  Is it not true that we associate disarray dress and grooming with either madness or genius? Once again, in keeping with the principles already articulated from 1 Cor. 9:22 and 2 Cor. 6:3, I would suggest that the four qualities listed under dress, apply here as well:

1) Cultural compatibility
2) Christian modesty (in the use of such things as cologne and perfumes)
3) Aesthetic sensitivity
4) Sanctified flexibility



Do not be so spiritual as to minimize the importance of these things. We must never underestimate what the devil may use to turn people’s minds away from your message or from respect for your person.

Do not be so selfish as to be unwilling to acquire some acrate knowledge of these matters, and continue to keep yourself aware of cultural changes regarding these things.

Don’t become self-centered and vain, and earn the reputation of being a “sartorial dandy.” (Use your dictionary to look up those two very good words which I have just used).


4.  Posture

a.  I refer here to the position or carriage of your body as you approach and ascend the platform or the place where you sit just prior to leading the service of worship, or entering the pulpit to preach.

b.  I will deal with physical action in preaching under a separate heading. I am only thinking here of this limited dimension of your physical carriage and bearing.

c.  Some would think this is a matter of unworthy of comment. But is it? The Scriptures are full of accounts in both the Old and New Testaments indicating that there is a perceived relationship between the state of a man’s mind and heart, and the position or carriage of his body. Before you ever open your mouth to speak to the congregation, the manner of your entering into public view has already sent out a message to those who look at you.

d.  Again, I would suggest some of the same key words which ought to characterize our posture in this setting:

1) Dignity

As I come to lead the worship, or to preach the Word, I am entering into the peculiar and special presence of God in the midst of His gathered people. If I would not shuffle or saunter carelessly into the presence of an earthly monarch, with slumped shoulders and my hands in my pockets, surely I should not come into the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of lords in such a slovenly manner.

2) Certainty/Confidence

I enter the platform or the pulpit as a messenger of the living God. My bearing and carriage and overdemeanor should reflect something of my high and noble calling.

3) Modesty/Propriety

I come to stand among God’s people as a redeemed sinner, unworthy to speak in my Master’s name. There should be nothing that gives the impression of a carnal, cocky, swagger and strut the stuff of the celebrity bursting onto the stage of “The Tonight Show.”


5.  Facial expression

a.  I am not leaping ahead to this aspect as it falls under the category of the emotions or physical action in preaching. Rather, I am limiting my concern to the facial expression we have when coming to the platform or entering the pulpit.

b.  Once more, I remark that the Scriptures are clear in demonstrating that the face is often the mirror of the soul.

Gen. 4:5, 6
Mt. 6:16
Prov. 15:13
Acts 6:15
2 Cor. 3:7

c.  I would suggest that the words which ought to characterize our countenances as we ascend the platform and then to the pulpit are:

1) Sobriety
2) Joy
3) Confidence in God
4) Goodwill to Men

Conclusion: Do not absolutize these principles or negate personal taste. Be dignified,

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