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What Sets Preaching Apart from Other Public Speaking?

My favorite classes at Western Kentucky University weren’t the Religious Studies courses (my major), or even the History courses (my minor). My favorite classes were in the area of speech and professional communication (what I wish had been my major). I grew up super-shy like almost every other Pastor I know, but have grown to love speaking to crowds of people. I’m a student of public speaking, in fact.

But when I enter the pulpit to preach on Sundays, something is different. It’s more than a speech somehow. I think there are several factors that cause this to be reality.

Preaching Involves Expounding a Timeless Message

At least, preaching should be the proclamation of an ancient message in today’s language. Preaching covers a wide variety of subject matter, especially in a preaching ministry that spans many years or decades in the same congregation. But there’s always one source – the Bible.

Preaching Is Prophetic

Don’t misunderstand – I don’t accept any claims of a “latter-day revelation” as God’s Word. I think that closed with Revelation 22:21. But there is a prophetic nature to preaching, well-explained by Michael Quicke in his book 360 Degree Preaching

No other kind of public speaking is therefore in league with prophetic preaching. They operate at different levels. Of course, preaching shares characteristics with public speaking such as the need to focus on a topic, design a message, and deliver it skillfully with voice and body. But while people can be trained to become more effective public speakers, effectual preaching first requires God’s call upon a preacher. No amount of natural skills can ever compensate for a lack of divine reality, a sense that God is empowering a spiritual event.

Preaching is Always Urgent

We’ve all heard speeches and talks given on a variety of informational subjects, but the goal of preaching isn’t information, but transformation. People tell me I preach very fast (yet still preach about 40 minutes on average). Maybe it’s because of the reality that we’re always short on time – life ends, Jesus is coming, and we have an urgent message every time we stand to speak.

There are other reasons, but I’d rather give you (if you’re reading this, that’s you) room to add your own thoughts. Keep studying public speaking to improve your communication of God’s Word. But if you have to choose, an hour in God’s presence will empower you a thousand times over more than an hour in a seminar on public speaking skills.

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