Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boldness in and out of the pulpit

Tim Bayly has been writing about pulpit persona in a couple of recent essays at BaylyBlog. The first one included this assessment:
When a man steps into the pulpit and adopts a different tone of voice, vocabulary, and syntax than he uses with his flock and family the rest of the week, he's either a pompous ass all the time, or he has displaced God's glory with his own, and his flock will leave the sanctuary hungry still.
Mr. Bayly's follow-up post is more nuanced but no less insightful:

Evangelicals expect our pastors to be bold in the pulpit. We expect them to bark. We expect them to speak out against the evils of Hollywood and liberalism and Gay Marriage and Alcohol and Gambling and even Planned Parenthood. But all of that is safe. Preachers are willing to say hard things as long as they are hiding behind the insulation of the pulpit. After all, it is what we pay them to do: make us feel bold because our pastor is willing to be bold in the pulpit. . . .

Of course, pulpit boldness without in-person boldness is not bold at all. It is tremendously safe. It gives a pastor what he wants: a soothed conscience without the discomfort of "meddling."

Amen. So how should a preacher carry himself both in and out of the pulpit? As Mr. Bayly concludes, "Is it appropriate for him to be urgent and intense and vibrant and bold? Absolutely. But only if he is all of these things in person."

HT: Expository Thoughts


Blogger Byron said...

Allow me to disagree about 20% with Tim Bayly's assertion, and it is to this degree: when he talks about syntax being different in the pulpit, and the like, I don't think that it's evidence that a pastor is being a "pompous ass" necessarily, but perhaps that he understands that there is a bit of a different standard for public speaking, when it comes to grammar and the like, than there might be for talking sports with a buddy or having an informal conversation of whatever kind. In informal speech, I might use "ain't", not take the extra split-second to choose the correct grammar (though I KNOW what it is, I might not always use it in informal conversations), or what have you. He overmakes his mostly-valid point when he includes (at least as I read it) such things in the conversation. Just as I'd measure my words (grammatically) just a hair more in the presence of the president than I might in the presence of my brother-in-law, so I do the same in the pulpit. Far from being "pompous", I call this "appropriate".

9:02 AM, December 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. I agree that the general spirit of the man of God ought to be the same in and out of the pulpit. When this begins to happen then the people will grow in their respect for the man and often times they will grow in their love and respect for the God that the man is attempting to represent. Amen.

9:21 AM, December 26, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Very good point, Byron. We will surely speak differently in different situations. Tim's essay reminded me of the kind of diction where preachers really do sound pompous, such as where they pronounce "God" as "Gaw-ood," etc. Thanks for visiting and commenting. You're always welcome here.

10:02 AM, December 27, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Amen, indeed, Nicholas.

10:10 AM, December 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's also the factor of audience size and the intention of the text. Speaking to 20 is different than 200. Seeking to encourage is different than to motivate.

12:32 AM, January 02, 2007  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for the input, Bumble.

9:14 AM, January 03, 2007  

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