What about going the other way? That is, we can preach grace to the point of ignoring truth. Kent Anderson recognizes this tension—and balance—of preaching grace and truth. He said, “My personal dependence on grace predisposes me to a grace-full preaching diet. I would just as soon leave holiness to the pulpit pounders on TV.”
Preaching With Grace
The tension Pelton and Anderson cite is a reality—one that most preachers wrestle with every time they stand in front of an eager congregation.
Let me suggest some considerations for preaching with grace.
First, cultivate a theological humility. Our theology sometimes comes into conflict with the biblical text. Whatever theological position a preacher might come from, we may not have the entire picture of what God is doing, which leaves us in need of some theological humility.
I tell my students, “Hold onto your Bible tightly, and hold onto your theology lightly.” When we have theological humility, we may not come across as prickly as we are prone to do.
Second, nurture a pastor’s heart. Here’s where your responsibility as a shepherd comes into view. The tenderheartedness of a pastor gives pastoral softness to our preaching. When we appreciate the condition of our flock, when we know and understand their questions and resistances, we’ll better be able to preach to them. A pastor, a shepherd, is one who cultivates patience—lots of patience. The individuals of a congregation aren’t going to mature overnight. Growth in Christ takes time. A pastor’s heart sees to it.
Third, grace is preached with an appropriate tone. We don’t talk about the tone of our preaching very often. One colleague in ministry said that after the first month or so preaching, her husband told her that she sounded angry in the pulpit.
I’m reminded of the Mary Chapin Carpenter song “I Take My Chances.” Carpenter sings about watching television late at night, flipping through the channels. She happened upon a TV preacher who had “brimstone in his throat.”
Preaching with grace demonstrates tenderness in one’s voice, even when talking about difficult matters.
Fourth, grace is communicated in the kinds of illustrations one uses. The illustrations picture grace, but they also exude grace. The illustrations aren’t preacher one-upmanship where we show ourselves better than others, heroes of the faith. They are not insulting to others. Too many times I’ve heard preachers skewer others with whom they disagree.
Preaching with grace takes into consideration the multi-layered role of illustrations and employs them with grace.
These four suggestions for preaching with grace have helped me in my approach to preaching, and I hope they help you.
I want to encourage you in your ministry of preaching. Preaching isn’t easy, especially if you work hard at it and try to communicate God’s Word to God’s people Sunday after Sunday.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned my conversation with Ben. Our conversation continued after he confessed to feeling discouraged after he heard my sermons. I told Ben I was sorry he felt discouraged. He paused and then said, “That’s OK. What you have to say may be something God has to say to me.”
In his words, Ben demonstrated grace. From our conversation, I sensed God was at work in Ben and in me—by His grace.