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Broadus lists four requisites to effective preaching: piety, natural gifts, knowledge, & skill.

Piety: Piety will flow from knowledge and conviction of the matter of the sermon. The preacher must be convicted and in so doing, he will convey that conviction to the hearer. The conviction — if real — will create piety in the preacher. Jack Hughes one time explained his sermon preparation as his personal meditation made public: stay alone the text until it changes you. Then, bring the sermon.

Many pastors fail here, by making the sermon mechanical, their Christianity remains largely on the outside. The passion and concern of delivery will flow naturally from that which matters most.

I have noted this with men whom I have seen teach well and teach in a mediocre matter. They will typically teach in an “adequate” but not in an outstanding manner. Yet, there comes a lesson, a sermon which transforms the hearer — such sermons come from a heart which itself was transformed; that is, marked with piety.

Thought of differently: a leader can lead no one to a place where he has not gone.

As Broadus writes, piety:

inspires the preacher himself with ardent zeal, and keeps the flame alive amid all the icy indifference by which he will so often be encompassed. This gains for him the good-will and sympathy of his hearers, the most ungodly of whom will feel that devout earnestness on his part is becoming, and entitles him to respect. And to this is promised the blessing of God upon the labors which it prompts. Much false theory and bad practice in preaching is connected with a failure to apprehend the fundamental importance of piety in the preacher

TPDS, 8.

Natural Gifts must be present before they can be developed. While much development can be had, there must be a basis with which to work.


There must be knowledge of religious truth, and of such things as throw light upon it; knowledge of human nature in its relations to religious truth, and of human life in its actual conditions around us. It was a favorite idea of Cicero that the orator ought to know everything. There is of course no knowledge which a preacher might not make useful.

TPDS, 8.


This does not refer merely to style and delivery, but also to the collection, choice, and arrangement of materials. All who preach eminently well—and the same thing is true of secular speakers—will be found, with scarcely an exception, to have labored much to acquire skill.

TPDS, 9. Skill derives from effort. The skill to speak well comes as the result of serious deliberate effort. It is a shame that many preachers think that mere good intent will translate into good effect.

In this respect, I remember an exercise recommended by a well-respected attorney known for his trial advocacy: Practice speaking in front of mirrors. Look to see how your face appears from every angle. Another exercise advantage for lawyers is to read the transcript of public argument. I know many young men who record their lessons to listen and improve — but I have found they are far too easy on themselves. A transcript is brutal in plainness. If you’re going to use recordings, find a friend who loves you enough to tear you up. Very few men can speak well, at all. Most speakers are painful. The difference is often the result of developed skill:

Any one whose good fortune it has been to be intimate with some of those noble Baptist and Methodist preachers, who beginning with hardly any education have worked their way up to the highest excellence in their calling, will have seen ample proofs, particularly in their unrestrained private conversation, that their power of clear and precise expression, and of forcible and attractive delivery, is the result of sharp, critical attention, of earnest and long-continued labor. The difference between skill and the lack of it in speaking, is almost as great as in handling tools, those, for example, of the carpenter or the blacksmith. And while no real skill can be acquired without practice—according to the true saying, “The only way to learn to preach is to preach”—yet mere practice will never bring the highest skill; it must be heedful, thoughtful practice, with close observation of others and sharp watching of ourselves, and controlled by good sense and good taste.

TPDS, 9.

A final note: there is nothing ungodly with taking deliberate effort to learn how speak — it is no shame to learn Greek or theology or history by means of effort. Strangely, many young men enter ministry thinking they will automatically be good (or even great) at speaking — and yet make no efforts to actually learn to speak in public.

As can be seen from Broadus’s list, great preaching can only derive from sustained private effort to gain knowledge and piety which results from deep private devotion and constant practice in speaking. Since the sermon is the central act of public Christian worship, the preacher must dedicate himself to painful effort in this respect. Anything less is no less a crime than laughing at the time of breaking bread or joking during a baptism.