Don’t Let Preaching With Personality Be Confused With Performance

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile

Last week The Front Porch joined forces with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Kentucky Baptist Convention to host “Tell Your Story: Expositional Preaching in the African-American Context.” The event served as a pre-conference for the Expositor’s Summit, Southern’s annual conference on preaching. We had the honor of inviting Victor Sholar, senior pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Lexington, KY; H.B. Charles II, senior pastor of Jacksonville, Florida’s Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church; and Curtis Woods, Executive Director for Convention Relations and Communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Our brother Kevin Smith, Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern, did a wonderful job hosting us and spurring us on in discussion.

You can find the audio from the pre-conference at SBTS’ website. Each talk was rich in its own way and each man left a deposit of grace with the attendees. The attendees were attentive, encouraging, thoughtful, and joyful. I hope Southern makes this an annual event because these are the kinds of gatherings at which ministries are strengthened and friendships forged.

During the panel discussion an issue arose that’s had me thinking since that time. Someone asked a question related to the difference between preaching as performance and preaching out of one’s personality. The questioner seemed concerned about how to identify the line that shouldn’t be crossed. After hearing so much about authenticity, about the authority of scripture and the divine scrutiny that attends our preaching, the question was really for us all.

As I think about the question, several passages from the Apostle Paul’s letters come to mind. In these words we find both a prescription for personality and a prohibition against performance.

The Preacher’s Personality

Paul’s view of preaching with personality has a lot to do with integrity. We preachers ought in some genuine measure to be what we preach. Consider his words:

“You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor the God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’ (Rom. 2:21-24).”

Our primary concern when it comes to personality is whether or not we personally embody the word we preach.

Only after we reflect the character becoming the office (Titus 1:5-9) should we consider individual personality in preaching? Character trumps personality.

Nevertheless, we are not to all sound alike, act alike, or try to fit our natural selves into some artificial and constricting range. David couldn’t fight in Saul’s armor, neither can the preacher preach in another man’s suit. We are to fully be ourselves. This is, in part, what Lloyd-Jones means when he defines preaching as theology coming through a man on fire, or through personality. Paul preached “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3), but Apollos “was an eloquent man,” “fervent in spirit,” who spoke “boldly” in the synagogue. Apparently their personalities and resulting styles were so different that people began to form cliques in loyalty to each man (1 Cor. 1:12).

So, first comes character, but then comes individual personality as an integral part of authentic preaching.

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SOURCE: The Front Porch
Thabiti Anyabwile