Preaching About the Bible Vs. Preaching the Bible

There are two kinds of preachers: some preach to the ear, and others to the heart. Preach to the ears, and people will applaud you – evangelicals and secularists alike.

Evangelicals love preaching about the Bible; tell them all day about Samson and Gideon and the square mileage of Canaan, preach to your heart’s content concerning the Greek verbs parsed well, the cultural milieu surrounding the times – fill their heads with Bible knowledge, and they’ll clap your back: “Thank you, preacher – you preach the Bible, that’s what I love.” You’ve tickled their ears.

Don’t preach to the heart, and secularists will walk away confused; mildly entertained, perhaps; certainly not offended. You’ve solidified their icy hearts with your eloquence. They’ve walked away historically informed, perhaps. But a sermon about the Bible is only offensive to the secular world because it is, frankly, a waste of their time. They’ll shake your hand, smile and nod, walk away dismissing you as they brush out the door.

Brothers, preaching about the Bible isn’t preaching God’s word. It’s preaching facts, filling folks with useless head-knowledge that swells the heart and does nothing for true religion.

True preaching preaches to the heart. It exegetes the text, and it explodes into the real, grub and dirt lives of the listening dead. True preaching is a hard mirror, an unforgiving thread leading me to my knees at the cross. Real exegesis exegetes not only the text, but the hearts receiving it. It allows people to feel its heat and light, because it cuts into souls and exposes them.

If your sermon is about the Bible, you’ve only tickled people’s ears. If your sermon speaks to me, about me – you’ve cut me to my heart. If your sermon leads me to Golgotha, to the man, you’ve changed my soul forever.

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Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.


    • I can think of examples of each, but I wouldn’t want to preacher bash…I’ll just say that I think when a preacher conveys information not relevant to his burden for the passage, that’s a good sign he’s preaching to the ear.

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