Rhetoric & Homiletics: Three Reasons Preachers Fail In Ministry

gifted from God.jpg

“Failing At What You Have Been Uniquely Gifted To Do
May Be The Real Failure In Ministry.”1 

On March 28, 2019, Dr. Crawford Lorrits at Dallas Theological Seminary and stated that a preacher will fail if he fails at any one of these three things2 . . . .

  1. You Need To Proclaim Truth
  2. You Need To Possess Truth
  3. To Do All That Is Written In It

May I suggest that these three are all elements of successful Christian living, not preaching per se.  All of God’s people have been called upon to proclaim, possess, and do.  The Scriptures have a word for that —  “disciples.”

Yes, fail in these three areas, fail in being a genuine disciple, while serving in the position of a pastor-preacher and given time the preaching will fail along with your powerless Christian life and living.

I understand the point which is being made. The teacher-preacher is clearly more responsible and held to a higher standard — “to whom much is give” / “be not many teachers.”  While a preacher ministry involves being a genuine disciple, it is more than discipleship.

I would suggest that failure as a preacher is connected to the very nature of the purpose for being in the pulpit — to effectively communicating biblical truths — “apt to teach.”

I would contend that a preacher will fail (given time — if he fails at being a true disciple of Christ, and) if he fails at any one of these three things . . . . .

  1. effectively communicating the truths and principles of Scripture – verbally
  2. communicating the truth and principles of Scripture that you verbally preach — nonverbally
  3. personal relationships

All three are packaged together in the phrase —  “apt to teach.”


#1) Preaching involves the ability to effectively communicate the simple truths and principles of Scripture.  May I suggest that the truth derived from this-or-that passage of Scripture is far more simple than most make it.  The real work is communicating it effectively.  The hard work is often more about how to go about getting simple truths across to the mind, heart, and will of the listeners.

God’s people did not sign up for a seminary class in theology.  If you think that those listening want to hear what all took place in “the kitchen before the meal,” you would be mistaken!  They have come to the “dining room” for a good meal!

God’s people are there — voluntarily — because they just spent a week in this fallen world and need a good spiritual meal which speaks to their minds and hearts, which can help direct their feet.


#2) Preaching biblical truth and failing to understand that nonverbally you are communicating . . . .

√  what you believe “in deed”
√  whether you really believe what you verbally said you believed
√  whether you yourself grasp that what you say you believe is so not you

. . . . will sink you over time — i.e., the cause of short pastoral ministries.  God’s people soon come to realize that the ministry is much like the world of politics around us — do as I say, not as I do.

Many a preacher has a “tin ear.”  They do not grasp that all that they are saying from the pulpit is being correlated with how they live life.


#3) Preaching leans heavily on relationships.  Effective communication and personal relationships are cousins of effective pulpit ministries.  A lot of grace, and even rhetorical grace, is given to those whom one respects, regards, loves, and/or appreciates.

There is a lot of grace and kindness which a preacher can be stored in the bank of good-will.  That grace and kindness will forgive many a weakness and failure.  However, lose a relationship and/or good-will and watch how fast the pulpit ministry irritates a listener.

AND . . . .
All three of these elements are interrelated!  


The cause of failure in the Christian life may well be related to not “Proclaiming,” “Possessing,” and “Doing,”  but . . . .

. . . . A PREACHER will fail (as a preacher) if and when he fails at any one of these three things . . . . .

√ ineffective verbal communication
√ discordant nonverbal communication
√ poor personal relationships with God’s people



1. Ted Martens

2. https://briandoddonleadership.com/2019/09/15/you-will-fail-as-a-preacher-if-you-do-not-do-these-3-things/

1. You Need To Proclaim Truth –  “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth”. Crawford states, “These people don’t need to hear your opinions and ideas.  They need a word from God.”  He goes on to add, “These people don’t need to hear your stories.  They don’t need to see your movie clips… They don’t need to hear that.  They need to hear a word from God.”

2. You Need To Possess Truth –  “you shall meditate on it day and night”  He says, “You have to absorb the truth.  This truth needs to become who you are… Absorb it.  Know it.  It is who you are…  It is not something you use.  It is not a ministry tool.  It is your identity.  It is living and powerful.  And the Spirit of God shows up when you honor the Word of God.  It is literally the voice of God.”

3. To Do All That Is Written In It – “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”  Crawford makes an interesting observation.  He says, “Notice the pronoun. Then YOU will make YOUR way prosperous.”   He concludes this portion of the message by saying “Ministry is incarnational.  You have to become a picture of the desired destination at which others should wish to arrive.”



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