William Willimon is a Methodist bishop who can preach. In fact, he is quite frankly one of my favorite preachers today. He tells an important story about preaching and the motives that those who preach often bring to the process of homiletics.

Willimon once heard a preacher begin a sermon, with great drama and more than a trace of theatrics, by saying to the congregation, “It is very hard for me to say what I feel I must say to you today in my sermon.” An elderly woman, sitting in the pew in front of Willimon, whispered loud enough to be heard by many, and said, “I’ll bet it’s not that hard for him to say this.”

If you preach ask yourself, “Why am I saying this and what do I hope to accomplish by saying it?” Don’t use humility to cover up your own opinions, which are often more related to what you really want to say rather than to what God wants you to say. Know the difference and you will be a true servant of the Lord of the church.

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  1. Anthony Stiff August 20, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    Opinions and Humility: finding Christ between the pulpit and the podcast.
    That would make a good title for a pastoral theology on missional preaching to an a-moral culture. I’m wondering John if you’ve ever considered writing something along those lines.
    Understanding what being prophetic looks like versus being unthoughtfully ‘partisan’ (theologically, ethicaly, or politically) is a hard matter for young preachers like myself who preach quiet infrequently. We could use some advice from our seasoned brothers.
    That reminds of a text I read just recently, I appreciated C.J. Mahaney’s little work on Humility, I would love to see something come from you since your journey has generated so many inter-pastoral dialogues over the years. And you’ve witnessed or also counseled so many different churches.

  2. John Armstrong August 21, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Thanks Anthony for a very insightful suggestion. I will prayerfully consider it. You have helped many of us think about this a bit more clearly by your response.

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