The Vault Of The Secret Formula
Michael Duduit, in “Preaching” magazine — February 13, 2018 — listed out what “The 25 Most Influential Preachers Of The Past 25 Years.” 1
Such lists have also been compiled in past years (See Below). 2
The comparison is interesting.
• Some names have changed.
• Some preachers have gone on to glory.
• Some names stay on, year after year.
• Some preachers are on the list even after their homegoing.
• Most are men.
• Some you may not like or agree with theologically.
What do these preachers have in common?
That is the question which begs an answer for those seeking to be more effective communicators. While there are clear differences between these varied preachers and teachers, they all possess some essentials.
There are many variations of “Coca-Cola” — Original, Zero, Vanilla, Diet, Diet Caffeine-Free, Cherry, Lemon, Lime, Rasberry, Citra, Light, Orange, and Life. There are many other Coca Cola Bottling Company Products — Dasani Water, Honest Tea, Fanta. But to be called “Coca Cola _____”, they all have certain essential ingredients.
Likewise, there are variant examples of Good-To-Great preaching, yet they all share some essential ingredients. They all have the same ingredients of effectiveness, no matter the variations of the product on the homiletical shelf.
Let me begin by saying . . . .
There Is No Secret Sauce: There is no “Secret Recipe,” like the Coke Formula.3 Unlike the vault at Coke headquarters, there is no secret which is kept in a
homiletical vault.” The factors which play into effectiveness should be known, have been published, are frequently shared, and are obvious to the most novice and motivated preacher.
There is no “secret formula” of effective preaching” for at least four reasons:
#1) Many of these practitioners have written on the subject of preaching and/or homiletics. There have been extensive interviews of many of those listed for all who want to take the time to read or listen to them address the subject.
#2) All preachers-teachers can listen & learn. We cannot only think, but we can also think about our thoughts.4 A listener can go analytical, not only experiential, as they listen. There is much to be learned by listening to others speak and preach. Just like there is much to be learned from the professional in golf, there is much that can be gleaned while listening to others who step onto the rhetorical greens week after week in the field of preaching. The techniques, thinking patterns, approaches, stylistic elements, etc. are all valuable.
#3) Effectiveness Is Not Singular. Obviously, the cause of effectiveness varies. That is why those identified as effective preachers are all very different. There is no single ingredient, and therefore, there can be no “secret formula of effectiveness.”
Rather, there are different elements which are spread . . . .
√ “singularly” — this-or-that preacher has an element uniquely or overwhelmingly, along with other elements — but that element is overwhelmingly them.
I would almost put Tony Evans in that category. He singularly-overwhelmingly possesses the ability to call up analogical illustrations.
√ “primarily” — this-or-that preacher has an element which marks them, along with other elements — but that element is what primarily marks them.
Warren Wiersbe and Charles Swindoll are masters at working with words. Their speaking and writing are primarily marked by that element.
While John Mac Arthur is primarily known for his comprehensive examination of Scripture.
√ “expansively” — most of those who are effective are marked by those elements — those elements span good-to-great preachers, while in varying degrees.
Coke does not have one formula, but several. Some variations of Coca-Cola have unique elements. Others have shared elements, and all have one expansive element — “coke syrup.”
#4) Some of the differences are vocal. It should be noted that the various preachers cited are all vocally different and that difference not only separates them out, but it inhibits a possible single reproducible formula.
There are some preachers who are more effective than others because of their “voice.” Resonance, pitch, tone, fluency, phonation, articulation are not something that is shared across the board. In singing, there may be those who try to sound like “Elvis,” but few can do and it and it is just not a worthy aspiration when it comes to speaking, no less preaching.
Who would deny that one reason that Alistair Begg is easy and pleasant to listen to is because of his Scottish accent? John Monroe, of Calvary in Charlotte, is likewise of that same cut of cloth vocally, along with the sound of a lawyer due to his legal background. Lloyd-Jones brings yet a British accent combined with vocal ambiance because of his medical background.
What do all the identified “Most Effective Preachers” have in common?
What are the shared “Coco-Cola ingredients” which marks all of them?
#1) Exposition: Most all of those listed would identify themselves as “expository” preachers. That is, they desire to “expose” what the text actually says rather than “springboarding” from a passage.
Just using a biblical word or idea from a passage and jumping off from it into a message is no longer acceptable. Today’s congregations generally know the difference between preaching what the passage teaches and “springboarding.” Many (unfortunately not all) will quickly “tune out” when a preacher plays around with a text.
Have you heard a preacher say, “I am taking this verse out of context, but . . . . ” That’s the end of that sermon in most cases!
#2) Word Power: They work with words because they live in the world of words! President Donald Trump will never be a good-to-great speaker.5 He has such a limited vocabulary — wonderful, terrific, beautiful, huge, love it, win, bigly.
Good-to-Great preachers work at their language skills. They understand that words matter! Warren Wiersbe is an ideal example of that ability, along with the many others to differing degrees.
#3) Flow: You can follow them as they speak. There is a flow of thought which moves from the beginning to the end. Good-to-Great preachers are on a logical, reasoned, progressive journey. The message is not “biblically here-and-there,” complicated and difficult to follow, theologically in the weeds, or lost as to where it is all going.
One of the reasons that Good-to-Great preachers are recognized as such is because there are a lot of people who listen to them. And why do a lot of people listen to them? Because a lot of people can follow what they are saying. All kinds, ages, gender, situations in life, of varied employment, education, social and/or financial status, financial get what they are talking about; they can follow them!
#4) Love Working With An Audience: I am not saying, they love to stand before an audience and have people listen to them. In fact, that is the opposite of what I am saying.
Rather, they enjoy working WITH an audience. Just like a teacher, educator, or professor who enjoys teaching, and seeing the light go one when ideas are seen, felt, and/or grasped. Think of that teacher who made this-or-that subject interesting. I dare say that they felt a sense of accomplishment when someone was as excited as they were about that subject.
That requires feedback and an ability to read feedback. Working with an audience involves avoiding the speaking mentality and/or preaching attitude of “preaching at.” It involves moving the audience along with you — “You have to see this . . . . Watch what happens when Jesus says . . . . . This is just an incredible and beneficial principle — (It’s “wonderful” and “huge-ly important”).”
#5) Appreciated, Regarded, and/or Loved By The Audience: Even weak preachers are good preachers when the audience regards him. A preacher who has a lot of “money built up in the bank of goodwill” will find that even average preaching is well attended to by the audience.
I have, and you have probably as well, heard others highly praise what one might consider average preaching. I have often been reminded of how much the pastor’s / preacher’s personal relationship plays into the equation!
#6) Working At Their Giftedness: There is a supernatural element to preaching. Preachers should be “apt to teach.” God says that he gifted men for the ministry so that they might edify the saints.
If you are “hard on an audience’s ears” . . . AND years have passed . . . AND little has changed . . . . may I suggested that the Lord did not call you into the pulpit ministry. He gifts those he calls. Perhaps you have been called into the ministry, but not the preaching and/or teaching ministry.
There is a giftedness, AND there must also be a drive to constantly become a better communicator. Every preacher who is effective knows that. Even the ineffective know that! All preachers would concur that they are better at preaching than when they started. Why? Not because they did not seek to become more effective. Rather, the Bible preacher/teacher has improved over the years by design and personal effort.
#7) Realistic & Helpful Application: The most often heard complaint about preaching and teaching is “little application.” Good-to-Great preachers have time, and make time, to apply what is being said to real life.
Those who say, “I wish I had more time to . . . .” usually “had plenty of time to . . . .” and especially to apply how this-or-that truth or principles matters in life and living.
“So What?” is the question that needs to be asked at the end of all the points. God’s people are looking for some concrete help and understanding after walking in the world throughout the week. They come, week after week, voluntary, and with hope that you can help them out of God’s Word to live more like Christ.
In the end, we may disagree on some of the indicated ingredients. Perhaps there are other ingredients which are more significant, and some of those identified ingredients are not as important.
Nevertheless, . . . .
“Good – to – Great”
and there is
“Average – to – Boring.”
An audience member may not know “why,” — may not be able to articulate what made that message effective. Nevertheless, even the most “rhetorically unsophisticated” — even “children” who still think a Mac Donald’s Happy Meal is better than a Porterhouse — know and realize . . . .
“That was GOOD!”
“Why did you think that was good?”
“I don’t know, but that was GOOD!”
Other Information & Links:
Gardner C. Taylor
W. A. Criswell
Stephen F. Olford
William A. Jones
E . K. Bailey
D. James Kennedy
Barbara Brown Taylor
Lloyd John Ogilvie
- Bryan Chapell
- Jerry Falwell
- Jack Graham
- O.S. Hawkins
- Jim Henry
- T.D. Jakes
- David Jeremiah
- Dan Kimball
- Erwin Lutzer
- John MacArthur
- Brian McLaren
- John Maxwell
- Lloyd John Ogilvie
- Haddon Robinson
- Adrian Rogers
- Andy Stanley
- Jerry Vines
- Rick Warren
- James Emery White
- Ed Young, Jr.
A 1985 Baylor University Survey — The List Included:
David Allen Hubbard
James Earl Massey
Lloyd John Ogilvie
Stephen F. Olford
J. Alfred Smith
John Wesley White
B. Clayton Bell
Wallace E. Fisher
Joel C. Gregory
Brian L. Harbour
Larry L. Lehman
Alton H. McEachern
Francis C. Rossow
“For only the second time in two decades, Baylor University has released its list of the 12 most “effective” preachers in the English language.”
Baylor’s 2018 — 12 ‘Most Effective’ Preachers
Joel C. Gregory
- Thomas G. Long
- Otis Moss III
- John Piper
- Haddon Robinson
- Andy Stanley
- Charles Swindoll
- Barbara Brown Taylor
- Ralph Douglas West
4. It is possible to listen to other speakers and preachers and quantify what is being done — rhetorically, to go analytical.
When one is able to quantify, he can then reproduce the technique — not a repeating of the content but of the technique! It can then be applied to other passages!
We can not only think, but we can also think about our thoughts. Likewise, we can not only hear something which was done effectively, but we can figure out what was just done.
That is the aim of listening to different speakers, and delineating what and how something was said which made it impacting. The listener needs to go back and deconstruct and quantify what was done so that the pattern can be reused. A “template” can be created for later usefulness.
5. Obviously, President Trump has and will continue to improve his vocabulary.
Nevertheless, just recently he used the word “proportionate” in regards to responding to Iran’s provocation by the shooting down of an American drone — “I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was “ffff” — proportionate.” Meet the Press Exclusive.
Did you notice that he almost slipped as he said “proportional” — he was about to say “I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was [fair] — proportionate.” He went to “proportional.”
A good speechwriter is able to take into account the speaker’s style and vocabulary and craft speeches which still sound like that person. Such is the case and the problem with the speechwriters for President Trump. They know that they must craft a speech which still sounds like him. Not to mention that when he gets off script, he is back to saying things imprecisely!
I imagine he is better at speaking in a business setting where his vocabulary is much broader due to his background and education.
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 2 3 4 5 6