Preaching and Performance

by Doy Moyer

There is a difference between preaching and performance. This is not to say good preaching does not involve solid delivery or shouldn’t use any aids. It is to say there is a difference in focus, and the preacher does well to understand this.

Performance aims at the mechanics. It can come across as staged, a production that takes the audience by storm and keeps them in rapt attention based on delivery. The content is secondary—important perhaps—but not really the main focus. The speaker has attention, and this is the thing. His is an art aiming at perfection of presentation, manner, gesture, and cadence. The cardinal sin is the slip-up, the stutter, or the mechanical failure. The speaker is the show, remembered not so much for what he said but how he said it.

In contrast, sound preaching aims at truth and understanding. Delivery is important because it can draw attention to or away from the text, for the text that shows us our Lord is the thing. Delivery is secondary to the truth and the speaker knows his place in the order of importance. He is not a master, but a servant of the text and a humble minister to those hungering for truth. He is not on display, but rather he places the truth on display and lets it have its intended effect as God’s word. His is not a graded performance, but a missional service focused on the one thing.

In other words…

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:1-5).

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