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The Secret Key to Great Preaching

In John Stott’s classic work Between Two Worlds, he writes:

In a world which seems either unwilling or unable to listen, how can we be persuaded to go on preaching, and learn to do so effectively? The essential secret is not mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions. In other words, theology is more important than methodology. (92)

This quote captures what I’m trying to do as a pastor and preaching professor, equipping younger ministers of the word.

Ordering the Passion

Many assume that preaching profs are either highly focused on technique and style, or that they aren’t capable of teaching a “real discipline” in the academy. Homiletics is often mocked. You might hear things like this: “You can’t teach a guy to preach.” “I never learned anything from my preaching professor.” “You can’t listen to him about hermeneutics, theology or pastoral leadership; he’s just a preaching professor.” When a preacher does/says something that’s rhetorically unusual in our chapel, you might hear, “Now, Dr. Merida may not like this, but this is what I’m about to do … .”

But I’m not preoccupied with technique and methodology. I don’t have a formulaic approach to preaching; I have a theological approach to preaching. I actually enjoy teaching preaching because so many fields converge there—hermeneutics, systematic theology, biblical theology, missiology, evangelism, pastoral theology, etc. My least favorite part of homiletics is technique, oratory and rhetoric.

It’s this theologically driven passion that’s led me to espouse expository preaching, which is word-driven, word-saturated preaching. Expository preaching is a theologically driven approach, not a pragmatic-driven approach.

A Matter of Convictions

Each semester in my preaching classes, my goal is not to teach technique; it’s to build, accent and intensify certain theological and spiritual convictions. This isn’t new. The discipline of homiletics is classically studied under the field of practical theology. My aim is to put forward particular convictions that will shape a student for the long haul. Their theology will determine their biography; my goal is to highlight certain theological convictions that will shape the rest of their ministry.

When I read other heroes like Lloyd-Jones, Piper, Spurgeon and others, it’s not technique that they talk about. It’s theology. Why is this? It’s because one’s theological convictions impact everything else. That is what will keep a person preaching when no one seems to be listening, and when the preacher himself wants to quit and get a job as a bullpen catcher.

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Tony Merida serves as the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Imago Dei Church, Raleigh, NC and as the Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five children. Tony is the co-author of Orphanology, and the author of Faithful Preaching and Proclaiming Jesus. He travels and speaks all over the world at various events, especially pastor’s conferences, orphan care events, and youth & collegiate conferences.