VOL. 10 January
How To Preach So As To
(The following article has
been adapted and edited from an article by Charles G. Finney, published July 29,
The Holy Spirit converts souls to
Christ by means of truth adapted to that end. It follows that a selfish preacher
will not skillfully adapt means to convert souls to Christ, for this is not his
Rule 1. Let your supreme motive be to secure your own popularity; then,
of course, your preaching will be adapted to that end, and not to convert souls
Rule 2. Aim at pleasing, rather than at converting, your hearers.
Aim to make your hearers pleased with themselves and pleased with you, and be
careful not to wound the feelings of anyone.
Rule 3. Give your sermons the
form and substance of a flowing, beautifully written, but never-to-be-remembered
essay, so that your hearers will say, "It was a beautiful sermon," but can give
no further account of it.
Rule 4. Be sparing of thought, lest your sermons
contain truth enough to convert a soul. Make no distinct points, and take up no
disturbing issues with the consciences of your hearers, lest they remember these
issues and become alarmed about their souls.
Rule 5. Avoid preaching
doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, lest they should say of you as
they said of Christ, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" and lest you
should injure your influence.
Rule 6. Denounce sin in the abstract, but make
no allusion to the sins of your present audience. Avoid especially preaching to
those who are present. Preach about sinners, and not to them. Say "they" and not
"you," lest anyone should make a personal application of your subject.
7. Keep the spirituality of God's holy law, by which is the knowledge of sin,
out of sight, lest the sinner should see his lost condition and flee from the
wrath to come.
Rule 8. Preach salvation by grace, but ignore the condemned
and lost condition of the sinner, lest he should understand what you mean by
grace and feel his need of it.
Rule 9. Preach no searching sermons, lest you
convict and convert worldly members of your church.
Rule 10. Do not make the
impression that God commands your hearers now and here to obey the
Rule 11. Do not make the impression that you expect your hearers to
commit themselves upon the spot, and give their hearts to God.
Rule 12. Leave
the impression that they are to go away in their sins and consider the matter at
Rule 13. Make no appeals to the fears of sinners, but
leave the impression that they have no reason to fear.
Rule 14. Make the
impression that if God is as good as you are he will send no one to
Rule 15. Preach the love of God, but ignore the holiness of his love
that will by no means clear the impenitent sinner.
Rule 16. Try to convert
sinners to Christ without producing any uncomfortable convictions of
Rule 18. Make no disagreeable allusions to the doctrines of
self-denial, cross-bearing, and crucifixion to the world, lest you should
convict and convert some of your church members.
Rule 19. Do not rebuke the
worldly tendencies of the church, lest you should hurt their feelings and
finally convert some of them.
Rule 22. Be sure not to represent
religion as a state of loving self-sacrifice for God and souls, but rather as a
free and easy state of self-indulgence. By thus doing you will prevent sound
conversions to Christ and will convert your hearers to yourself.
Rule 23. So
select your themes and so present them as to attract and flatter the wealthy,
self-indulgent, extravagant, pleasure-seeking classes, and you will not convert
any of them to the cross-bearing religion of Christ.
Rule 28. Ridicule
solemn earnestness in pulling sinners out of the fire, and recommend, by precept
and example, a jovial, fun-loving religion, and sinners will have little respect
for your serious preaching.
Rule 29. Cultivate a fastidious taste in your
people by avoiding all disagreeable allusions to the last judgment and final
retribution. Treat such uncomfortable doctrines as obsolete and out of place in
these days of Christian refinement.
Rule 30. So exhibit religion as to
encourage the selfish pursuit of it. Make the impression upon sinners that
their own safety and happiness is the supreme motive of being
Rule 32. If your text suggests any alarming thought, pass
lightly over it, and by no means dwell upon and enforce it.
Rule 33. Avoid
all illustration, repetition, and emphatic sentences that may compel your people
to remember what you say.
Rule 34. Avoid all heart and earnestness in your
delivery, lest you make the impression that you really believe what you
Rule 35. Be tame and timid in presenting the claims of God, as would
become you in presenting your own claims.
Rule 36. See that you say nothing
that will appear to any of your hearers to mean him or her, unless it be
Some observations: Sadly, the
preceding article describes much of the preaching being done today. The purpose
of preaching is not to entertain or please the audience nor is it to promote the
ability of the speaker. Paul charged Timothy to Preach the word; be instant
in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and
doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2). This preaching may not please the masses nor
make them feel good, however, if received into honest hearts and obeyed, it will
result in the salvation of souls. Paul said, for if I yet pleased men, I
should not be the servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).
"A man is a
selfish fool who says it is nobody's business what he
"Admitting that you've been wrong proves that you are wiser now
than you were before."
"The party spirit in a church murders God''s
truth and makes liars of its devotees."
"Kind words take less breath
than harsh ones."
"Rivers (and men) get crooked by following the path
of least resistance."
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