Rhetoric & Homiletics: Three Kinds Of Preachers

Preaching is of no use at all unless you can make the people listen to it; It is possible for us all, more or less, to make them listen. . .

There are three types of preachers.

There are some preachers whom you cannot listen to.

There are some preachers whom you can listen to.

There are some preachers whom you must listen to.

I think there is a considerable number of the first, a very great number of the second, and extremely few of the third—extremely few—and I do not believe this need be so. In fact I am quite sure it need not, and, therefore, I want you to increase the ranks of the third, and to make up your minds that if work and study and anxiety about it will do anything, you are determined in your future ministry to make men listen to you. [1] — Paterson Smyth

The speaker-preacher-teacher is limiting their potential when they lack some of the tools that are readily available!  While tools do not a carpenter make, master carpenters will invariably have MORE and BETTER tools!  Over time, most apprentices will see the effectiveness of such tools of the trade and acquire them as well.

Likewise, there are communication tools that can improve the effectiveness and productivity of the speaker-preacher.  A speaker-preacher can consciously pick up a communication tool and come to see how effective it is.  While knowing about and understanding communicative tools do not a master preacher make, “Master Preachers” will inevitably have MORE and BETTER communication tools.

Nevertheless, some, maybe many speakers-preachers may fail to acquire the communication tools that mark good-to-great preachers.  There are some reasons for that failure.

  • Some who teach public address or homiletics are unaware of the many tools available.  Many classes in homiletics are taught by those who have little to no education in the field of communication.
  • Some have an aversion to adopting such tools.  They believe that purposefully employing such tools is contrary to biblical truths and principles.
  • Good-to-great speaker-preacher may not be able to identify those tools. They may not know or accurately understand what makes them effective.  Not all great quarterbacks are great coaches.  Therefore they are unable to pass their ability on to yet others.
  • The speaker-preacher is not proactive.  They are not searching for tools that can make them more effective and are satisfied and/or confident in their communication abilities.
  • Communication tools may not be apparent.  When it comes to communication, it takes time to see, develop, and then explain how this-or-that operates.

Among the speaker and preacher tools is a “dictionary of phrases.”

 It’s an idea generator for speakers, writers, and preachers!

  • When Rebekah plotted with her favorite son, Jacob, she “added fuel to the fire.”
  • You want to say, “run that by me again!”  You set up a golden calf in Bethel!
  • Judas thought that it would be a “feather in one’s cap” if he could pull this off.
  • To Haman, it was “all systems go.”
  • Haman thought it was “all over but the shouting.”
  • Elijah was “running on low” after that monumental exhibition of God’s power.
  • The great Apostle Paul “run over” by the city’s antagonistic response.
  • David’s servant was” riding shotgun.”


1. “The Preacher And His Sermon, by Paterson Smyth – pgs 60-61

And with that in view, I want you first not to excuse yourselves by the common cant of the so-called “religious world” about the distaste that people have for hearing about religion.

Don’t you believe it.

It is a great comfort to a dull, stupid preacher who has not put any enthusiasm into his sermon, or taken any thought or trouble to make it interesting to the people, to console himself for the bored, uninterested look of his audience by the reflection that the fault is not in his sermon but in the distaste of “the natural man” for religious teaching. It would be amusing if it were not so sad to hear him say with calm self-satisfaction that his business is to preach God’s Word whether men hear or forbear.

Ah! if he could but hear the opinions of his audience, not only of the care-less but of those also who are caring to be helped; if he could mingle with the people coming out of church and hear the very unflattering comments as to the length and diffuseness and platitudes of his sermon, it might be a very- salutary experience. We clergy do not hear half enough of what the laity say of us. It would be better if we did. This poor patient laity! I think they deserve great sympathy.

It is perfectly exasperating the way that intelligent lay people are treated by lazy and self-sufficient preachers. One does not wonder that many of them have been driven off from church. Recently I was away in Switzerland at a favourite English resort, and had many serious talks with lay people from various places, and the two things that most impressed me were the complaints that we clergy preach such uninteresting sermons, and the revelation that a great many seemingly careless people are really wanting to learn and to be interested. — Paterson Smyth

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