Emotion in Preaching

Sometimes preachers declare that style is always secondary to content in preaching. The preacher should make sure that the people are receiving good content, and if the people are exposed to good content every week, the people will be weaned off of the use of emotion which will cloud the mind. At least that is what some would argue. In fact, if you do a good job, so the argument goes, you can deliver the sermon in a calm objective lecture style and it will be just as effective as if sweat were dripping for your brow as you yell the sermon at the top of your voice.

Now I would agree that vocal volume is not the only way to increase intensity, but I would strongly disagree with this attempt to privilege calm preaching over fiery preaching. In addition, I would not want to say you must be yelling to be a great preacher, but emotion must be a part of real preaching if it is to effect the whole person and not just the mind.

Real Sermons brings Real Emotion

If the sermon is real to you, you will express emotion. Now this emotion will manifest itself in different ways for different preachers. Certainly everyone will not have the same manifestation, but every preacher will have some form of emotion.

I would argue that if the sermon does not elicit emotion from the preacher then the preacher ain’t found his sermon to preach.

If I am talking about the cross of Jesus where God died for me, then I cannot speak about that the same way I would tell you about how to program a computer. When I am speaking about God’s grace being sufficient for me, I can’t use the same tone as when I am telling someone the directions to the store.

And If I am talking about God’s judgment, I expect that I will not use the same tone as if I were talking about what show I am gonna watch on TV tonight. When you are preaching, don’t manufacture emotion, but if there ain’t nothing to shout about, I wonder if you are preaching the gospel or something else…

Emotion is a Part of the Human Being

Certainly the preacher can go overboard and not address the mind, but if you are to preach to the whole person, you must address the mind and the emotions. The sermon must first effect the mind and the spirit of the preacher first, and then it must affect the mind and the spirit of the congregation.

Great preaching will affect the whole being. This has been the genious of the Black preaching tradition, and this is the strength of all great preaching…

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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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