From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Why I Yell When Preaching

My preaching style has changed over the years, some of it being a reflection of preachers to whom I listen. I’ve always been an intense person, but in these last few years that intensity has taken the form of animation in my preaching – knocking on the pulpit, slapping the archway just to the right of the pulpit, lowering my voice to a whisper and yes, raising my voice to a shout.

I do not know how to say “I love you” dispassionately, or how to talk about the gospel without feeling. Though some may see it as overly dramatic, I experience it as demonstrative preaching.  The danger to this type of preaching, of course, is that of calling attention to the preacher rather than to the message. But the medium is at least a part of the message, so the idea of dispassionate preaching on the passion has a ring of hypocrisy to it, at least to my ears.

Tope Koleoso writes about why he shouts when he preaches. Here’s an excerpt that struck me as true:

Therefore, I shout, I laugh, I cry, and I dance. Therefore, I use my voice, my hands, my legs and my eyes. Therefore, I will do it with utter conviction and passion for if I will not do it from the heart, I will not do it at all. Therefore, I engage the crowd, the best I can for I will not be ignored seeing that I carry the greatest message the world has ever heard. Therefore, I will be even more undignified for I do it all to the glory of God. Therefore I will be careful and calm lest I become the message and distract from the cross and by so doing, sin against the Lord I love.

At one point in his life, Henry David Thoreau was thrown in jail for civil disobedience for the sake of his conscience.  He was visited by his friend Ralph W. Emerson who asked “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

In the same way I’d ask those who question shouting in the pulpit – what are you doing preaching the passion dispassionately, as though the Good News was really mildly interesting news in an intellectual-only sort of way?

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