You Can Preach a Good Sermon Without Love, But Not a Great Sermon
By Jocelyn Hu
Can you preach a good sermon without love?
I was at a gathering of pastors, and the gust speaker said, "You can preach a good sermon without loving your people, but you will never preach a great sermon without loving them."
I immediately wrote the phrase down and chewed on it for a while.
Can pastors really preach good without love?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized it is true.
There are plenty of pastors who preach good sermons without love for the people they are preaching to. They preach well, because, although they don't love people, they love preaching.
Their people even say afterwards, "That was a good sermon." Because by all accounts it was.
The timing and delivery were good. The illustrations were well rehearsed. The pastor was likable. The interpretation of scripture was solid. But "good" is all their preaching will ever be.
There is just something missing. Something that cannot be measured, but it can be felt. Love.
On the other hand, there are other pastors who preach the same level of sermon (even less polished), but have a genuine love for the people they are preaching to.
Their love is obvious. It flows through them. You hear it in their voice. You feel it in their stories. You see it in their body language.
The way they preach cannot be taught, but it is easy to see.
A genuine love for people transforms an otherwise good sermon into a great one.
Why? Because when you love your people, you know your people. Your application points will hit your people exactly where they are. You speak on a different level because you have taken the time to understand and care about what your people need to hear.
It is like how the way I speak to my wife, my son, and my daughter is different from the way I speak to a stranger.
I speak to my family differently, because I know what they need to hear. I speak to my family differently, because I know how they need me to communicate so that they will understand. To a stranger, I will be polite and communicate as best I can, but it will never be on the same level.
There are many good preachers who can turn a phrase and tell great stories. They are engaging, energetic, and interesting. But without love they will never reach their full potential.
Love alone will not make you a good preacher. You still need to put in the work. You still need to learn to communicate effectively. But, without love, you will never be a great preacher.
I think Paul said it best...
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (ESV)
Love your people.
Really love them.
Your preaching may be "good" without love, but it will never be great.