Like any other person who has a craft they work to refine, I think a lot about the craft of preaching. I refuse to believe there are “bad” preachers. I believe that even the most difficult preacher to listen to has within them the Divine spark (because all humans do) and I can listen for that spark.
While I do not think there are bad preachers, I do think there are three types of preachers which I label: Teachers, Inspirers, and Greats.
Teachers are those preachers who are primarily interested in teaching. This style of preaching is gratifying because when you leave, you feel like you have expanded knowledge. Teachers include Seminary students and others who are learning new things they are excited about. Teachers also include those who find learning personally enriching. Teachers are good preachers. I am a teacher about half of the time. However, teachers can also be dry in content or, more often, operating under the Greek myth that knowledge leads to enlightenment. I learn a lot from watching the Food Network, but I am not any closer to being a chef. Knowledge of Jesus does not equate into being Christ-like.
The Inspirers are preachers primarily interested in inspiring you to action. This style of preaching is gratifying because when you leave you feel pumped up or on a “spiritual high”. Inspirers include those who are feel strongly that “faith without works is dead” and find being the hands of Christ personally enriching. Inspirers are good preachers. I am an Inspirer the other half of the time. However, Inspirers can be story-heavy and theologically light. Inspirers also can be overt with nostalgia or fear-mongering to manipulate action. Getting your “Jesus fix” each Sunday is often a nice way of being addicted to the evocative aspects of worship.
So of course the Great preachers interweave the head (Teacher) and the heart (Inspirer). This is more than obvious at this point. However Great preachers do two other things which are by far the most difficult things to do. The next post will expand on what the Great preachers do.