Know Your Bible

VOL. 10                           January 9, 2011                           NO. 2

 How To Preach So As To Convert Nobody
(The following article has been adapted and edited from an article by Charles G. Finney, published July 29, 1875)
     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 end.
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 to Christ.
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.
Rule 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 truth.
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 their convenience.
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 hell.
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 sin.
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 religious.
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 say.
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 something flattering.
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).
---James Hahn
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***Sentence Sermons***
"A man is a selfish fool who says it is nobody's business what he does."
"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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