Lecture 7 – Appropriate Expression of Emotions in Preaching

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The basis for the moral obligations in conjunction with our emotions

THE FOUNDATIONAL THESIS: It is our duty to cultivate, control, and appropriately express our emotions in the act of preaching

a. The Logical Proof

1) Self-control is a biblical duty.

Prov. 16:32
Prov. 14:29
Gal. 5:23

2) Our emotions are a part of our God-given self.

3) Therefore, the control of our emotions is our duty.

b. The Mathematical Proof

1) The whole includes all of its parts.

2) Our emotions are an integral part of our full humanity, and must therefore come under the influence of the Holy Spirit’s ministry producing in us self-control.

c. The Scriptural Proofs

Joel 2:12-14, Joel 2:17
Ezek. 24:15-18
Neh. 8:9-12
Ecc. 3:1-4
Mat. 5:11-12
Lk. 23:28-31
Rom. 12:15
1 Cor. 7:29-30
Jas. 4:9

1)   In these passages God calls upon men to come to grips with the realities which, if consciously and powerfully present in the mind and heart, cannot but produce the commanded emotional state and its appropriate expressions

2) In these passages we also learn that higher considerations may dictate a restraint upon the ordinary and normal emotional state.

1 Cor. 7:29-30
Ezek. 24:15-18
Rom. 12:15
Lk. 9:44

3) In these passages it is assumed that the emotion and its appropriate expressions are normally concurrent realities

James W. Alexander, Thoughts on Preaching, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1988), pp. 18, 20.



I trust I have now established the biblical basis for the assertion that it is our duty to cultivate, control, and appropriately express our emotions.
If this is a general Christian duty, how much more is it our duty when all of our faculties are concentrated on the great and weighty issues of time and eternity in the actual act of preaching.
When the mind and heart of the preacher are fully taken up with clear views of spiritual realities, then all the lines to all of his emotions should be plugged in and fully functioning.
5. Some practical guidelines for the cultivation and appropriate expression of the emotions in preaching

a. General emotional cultivation and its appropriate expression

1) Engage in regular biblical meditation.

Ps. 39:3
Lk. 9:44

2) Exercise the imagination and empathetic faculties

Joshua H. McIlvaine, Elocution: The Sources and Elements of Its Power, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), pp. 75-76.

Joshua H. McIlvaine, Elocution: The Sources and Elements of Its Power, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), pp. 78-80.

3) Give vent to the appropriate emotional expressions attending these activities.

Ps. 62:8

4) Read out loud, seeking to let the appropriate emotional impact be felt and expressed. (An excellent exercise is to do this in your devotional reading of the Scriptures.)

b. Specific emotional cultivation and control in preaching

1) Seek a real but restrained emotional engagement in the process of your preparation.

Do not exclude the emotions from the process of preparation – the reality of being engaged in earnest prayer must be sustained throughout your preparation. Such prayer is almost always “emotionally warm.”

Although what happens in the act of preaching is often unpredictable, as a general rule, the level of felt grip and warmth and holy passion experienced at the desk and on our knees prior to preaching, will be an index of what we will experience in the act of preaching itself.

Joshua H. McIlvaine, Elocution: The Sources and Elements of Its Power, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), pp. 68-69.

Gardiner Spring, The Power of the Pulpit, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), pp. 126-127.

2) Now, in the actual delivery of the sermon, the general principle is that we should seek a free but real and controlled flow of the emotions throughout the entire delivery.

The great biblical mandate in this connection is “Quench not the Spirit.” Since the fruit of the Spirit is “self-control” do not quench the Spirit’s work in producing self-control in you as you preach.

Emotional frenzy is the stuff of pagan and demonically inspired religion- not the stuff of Holy Spirit controlled religious experience (1Cor. 12:2).

On the other hand, since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, do not grieve him by seeking to force an expression of emotion which is not spontaneous. We are commanded “lie not one to another.” To preach with the painted fire of forced emotion is one of the most reprehensible forms of lying. The man who has written in his notes “weep here” is a despicable fake.

William M. Taylor, The Ministry of the Word, (London: T. Nelson & Sons, 1876), p. 138.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), pp. 92-95.

Miscellaneous observations and cautions relative to this subject

a. Seek to gain an accurate assessment of your basic emotional constitution, and deal with yourself accordingly.

Some men need a bridle, but others need a spur.

b. Consciously work at mending any broken circuits between proper emotions and their appropriate expression.

1) Look to Christ as your perfect example-

2 Cor. 3:18;

1 Jn. 2:6

2) Take practical steps to cultivate your emotions

Work at expressing proper emotions with your wife, children, and other intimate friends- since such friends know you in your more “native” emotional patterns, explain to them that you are seeking to expand the range of emotional expression, and solicit their help.

Seek the critical assessment of wise and competent Christians.

c. As you preach, beware of venting emotion beyond the present level appropriate to the mental and emotional state of your hearers. Seek to be sensitive to the congregation’s emotional movement with you during the course of your preaching.

Robert L. Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), pp. 250-251.

d. Beware of your peculiar vulnerability after the emotional expenditure of preaching

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