A Preacher’s Fingerprint

The preacher and his congregation have a special relationship. Theologically, it’s understood that God speaks through the preacher to give HIs people His word. The preacher is the recipient from God, but also the servant of God to His people. But this post is not to go into the specifics of how that works out theologically. I wanted to point out something I’ve noticed a great deal recently. I never noticed this in past years, because I was in one church context (CFC) for the last 7 years, but with the recent move to Boston, I’ve seen this phenomenon come alive. What am I talking about?

Have you ever noticed how people of a certain church tend to speak (and indefinitely preach) just like the Pastor who is preaching week in and week out?

It’s comical, really. All the idiosyncrasies, catch phrases, cliches, and hand motions get passed down from the Pastor to their congregation. If I had an exhaustive database of all the preachers out there and their preaching styles, I bet I’d be able to tell you which church you attend just by observing how you talk. You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve met that talk just like Tim Keller here. Why? Simply because they listen to him! For the longest time, I always caught myself talking and preaching in the same manner as Pastor Min (obviously with no where near the spiritual power). My hand motions, cliche punch lines, and choice of words were all modeled after the man I heard preach to me for 7 years. I guess more than anything, that’s a good thing…

So what’s the point of this observation? Nothing, really. But in some sense you can understand how important it is to listen to good preachers. Not only because you’ll begin to think like them (forming your theological convictions along the same lines), but also because you’ll inevitably begin to talk like them. So for all of you aspiring preachers out there… If you want to preach like Piper, listen to Piper. 🙂


5 Comments on “A Preacher’s Fingerprint”

  1. speakingofmeek says:

    haha yea man. i heard lot of people up there are way into keller. borderline obsession hahaha. i want to visit soon, dude.

  2. Redemption Story says:

    Dan, Thanks for the post. I know this is not exactly what you are talking about but I thought you might find these excerpts from interviews with various pastors/preachers interesting. The question posed was “What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?” Thabiti Anyabwile answered: “I think it’s probably most important that a preacher be himself… whatever that means stylistically. Piper is Piper; MacArthur is MacArthur; Stott is Stott; Lloyd-Jones was Lloyd-Jones. I suppose Thabiti is Thabiti, though as a young preacher I’m still trying to figure out what that means. A man should be comfortable in his own skin as he preaches. Was it Lloyd-Jones who referred to preaching as “personality on fire.” That strikes me as right. Be ablaze with God’s truth and trust that the Lord means to mediate that truth, in part, through the distinctive ways He has shaped you in personality. Next to that, I think probably plainness is important. Having said that, though, I think the thing to be avoided is making your personality (humor, etc.) the core of your preaching. One can be all style and no substance. And there is the terribly frightening prospect of building an audience on a man’s personality, even creating a cult of personality and celebrity. That must be one of the most grotesque things to be avoided: preaching yourself while you should be lifting up the Savior.” Voddie Baucham also commented: “The most important aspect of a preacher’s style is authenticity. When I started preaching, I thought my ‘style’ had to fit a certain category. As a result I mimicked some of my favorite preachers. I was constantly reinventing myself. Ultimately, I had to find my own ‘style’ and stick with it. That meant there was one less thing I had to manufacture. I had to realize that God gave me a unique personality and he intended to use it in unique ways. God gave us four gospels written by four unique men, from four different perspectives. I had to remind myself that it is as much of a travesty for me to try to be Tony Evans as it would have been for John to try to be Matthew.”

  3. Dan Ko says:

    that’s so true.

    At GCTS last week, we had the privilege of having Crawford Loritts come and speak at our preacher’s conference and something he said really resonated with me. The preacher needs to be spoken to, in order to speak to people. We are the messengers of God’s Word to His people. God speaks, before we preach.

    So that goes to say, we are not the mirrors that reflect another pastor’s preaching, but we are to give God’s people the Word that is given to us by Him. Engaging with the Scripture, being more important than imitating a preacher.

    and yea, I’m learning a lot about what that means, because it’s my tendency to imitate what works. we all have the urge to be the next Piper or Keller, but God called each one of us to preach His words, not Piper’s.

    wow. didn’t mean to write that much. but yes… i guess this post was only to poke fun at people that carried on the mannerisms that they hear every sunday in the pulpit. 🙂

  4. Simon says:

    i dont think its “imitation.” The most effective preachers are the ones who can teach clearly the truth and communicate it effectively. So why wouldn’t keller and piper and the rest of them go imitated, not because of their style, but because of the light they shed on God’s word. Not to say we steal all their information, but it’s just an agreement with their theology… If God spoke that word into the preacher, why wouldnt it speak to us in the same way?

    I preach like… hmmm.. oh yes.. the greatest preacher on earth. HAHA jk.

  5. Brent Boorsma says:

    wow yeah, that definitely happens at 7mr to the point of being comical. Especially the hand jive, among other things.

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