Jul 23, 2017

Extempore & Sing Song Preaching

Many old timer groups of Baptists, including old Regular Baptists, Hardshell or "Primitive" Baptists, etc., especially in rural Appalachia, believe it is "taboo" to preach with notes, or from a pre-planned outline. These believe in complete extempore preaching. There is a philosophy of preaching behind this. It is the belief that a message that is God given will be impressed upon the preacher, or put into his mind somehow, once he begins reading a text or portion of scripture. Further, the evidence that a preacher is "blessed" to preach, given "liberty" to preach, will be judged to a large degree on how excited he becomes, or how fast he will preach, and whether he can get into that "sing song" mode of speaking, where there is some rhythm or cadence to the words spoken. Invariably, in this style of preaching, there is generally the rhythmic sucking of air and the "uhs" and "ahs" between breaths. Forgive me, but I just don't understand this thinking.

I understand that this idea goes way back. Daniel Parker, the notorious founder of several sects of Baptists, including the Hardshells, was known for believing that he was often "inspired" by God with his messages, and that God was the one who gave him his unction to speak to the uplifting of the emotions of the people.

Now, I am certainly not opposed to emotional preaching. Nor am I against speaking extemporaneously at times. But, I do not think preaching with notes must hinder that. Further, I don't think that all the responsibility for good preaching is on the Lord's shoulders. If it were, we could blame him if preaching was not edifying. A failed sermon could be because God didn't bless. That is the normal thinking that people have who have accepted this ideology about preaching. It seems to me that the success of preaching is to a large degree the responsibility of the preacher, and he is the one to be blamed when he fails to edify.

Further, I just don't see how people can be taught well in sing song type preaching. Oftentimes, among groups where such preaching is popular, the preacher reads the text, and then completely leaves it and begins to spew out from his mouth whatever thoughts he has about spiritual things.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy lively singing. I enjoy seeing raised hands and hearing shouts of praise. I enjoy hearing the "amens" and "hallelujahs." I enjoy seeing the saints of God getting happy. But, I also like hearing good teachers give solid expositions of the word. I think there are ways to preach where we teach, given sound expositions, and lift the emotions. I don't think one has to exclude the other. But, to be too emotional is not good. Likewise, to be too stoic in giving expositions and teaching doctrine is also not good. Balance between these two needs is an art and a science. God give us preachers who are skilled to be balanced in this regard.

Hardshells need to quit thinking that a preacher preaching with outlines or notes is a bugaboo and a hindrance to teaching and preaching.

No comments: