Preachers who Yell
Since my wife shared that with me I've been thinking about preachers and yelling. I'm not one prone to raise my voice. I'm a pretty dry person by nature, and by humor, and my personality comes out in my preaching. That sounds exciting to listen to doesn't it? I'm a great salesman for myself.
But the remark did get me thinking about some other encounters I had in the past year regarding peoples remarks on styles of preaching. We had a dear friend of mine in for our Spring Bible Conference. He and his wife poured their hearts out to us, and after it was over one person told me "They don't' make preachers like they used to." ( He meant he didn't like the preacher)
It seems when people come to a service, they expect to hear things a certain way. And when things don't go that way they feel let down. There's a certain crowd also that really wants to "preached to" by a yelling, screaming, red-faced preacher. When leaving that church you know you've been preached at! In fact, some feel that without that style it's not really preaching.
I remember a preacher I had as a child who yelled a lot. I was very small and mostly remember him being very red faced. I'm sure you can share stories of pastors who yelled, screamed, called people out, and more in the name of preaching. And stories of preachers so boring it was all you could do to stay awake every Sunday. No naming names, please.
I had been musing on these things when I read the chapter in John Piper's Brothers We Are Not Professionals on pursuing the tone of the text. (PDF for Whole Book) Each preacher has his own personality, and Phillip Brooks famously said that preaching is "truth through personality" The personality of a pastor has a large bearing on how he presents in a sermon, and how the text is received by the congregation. But what kind of tone should a pastor aim for?
"By tone, I mean the feel that it has. The spirit it emits. The emotional quality. The affectional tenor. The mood. Every personality has a more or less characteristic tone. That is part of what personality is. Some personalities play a small repertoire of emotional instruments, while others play a large repertoire."
If the text shapes the tone as Piper suggests, then I don't think a pastor should yell every sermon. If you yell and scream every sermon you might need to broaden the texts you preach from. Likewise, if you never raise your voice at the sin in our lives that separates us from God, you might need to broaden your preaching texts as well.
Pastors should work hard when preaching to display the range of emotion that scripture does. This can only be done I believe by soaking yourself in the text for an extended period of time. And by that I don't mean spending 20 minutes in it on Thursday for a Sunday sermon. Immerse yourself in God's word, in the passage you are to share God's truth from. You will only benefit from spending time in God's word, as it does not return void,
Piper lists ten thoughts on tone in preaching, all of which have bearing on preacher. This section comes from the Desiring God blog post on the subject, an almost verbatim transcript of the chapter.