Twice a month I lead a preaching cohort at my church. Recently, in addressing the maxim by Philip Brooks which states that preaching is “truth communicated through personality,” I spoke of four personality types preachers tend to have. It should be noted most aren’t simply one of these but combinations of such. It might also help to know this is not a commentary on the quality of sermon content per se. With that stated, here are four different preaching styles:
#1: The Professor
Strength: Insightful with information. The Professor makes complex ideas understandable for congregants in addition to connecting the dots of different truths that most would miss. Professors get excited at new concepts or subtle doctrinal discoveries and want their listeners to understand why those finds are so important. These personalities tend to gravitate to giving a lot of time preaching abstract or theological concepts. Sermons tend to be very well constructed, logical in flow, and packed with information. They also can have more sub-points than an IRS form. 😉
Emotional bandwidth: Smallest emotional range. Messages can tend to feel lecture-oriented.
Example: Tim Keller, D.A. Carson
#2: The Author
Strength: Insightful with observation. The Author cannot preach without telling a story showing how an idea fleshes itself out in life for his congregants. Authors have an incredible knack for describing life in a way their listeners can both identify with and inhabit (sermon-wise). If the Life Coach can open up the listeners daily life from a practical viewpoint, the Author does so from a sensory fashion and he uses his descriptive powers in storytelling to do it. Indeed, Authors are obsessed with wordcrafting and tend to be married to their sermon notes, which generally are in manuscript form. (You could take their notes, three-hole punch them, and send them off to the publisher) That is also why they tend to keep their head down quite a bit when preaching.
Emotional bandwidth: Varied.
Example: John Ortberg
#3: The Life Coach
Strength: Insightful with application. The Life Coach has an uncanny ability to exegete his congregants’ daily life with incredible precision in that the “rubber meets the road” parts of his messages leads his listeners to wonder if their preacher has been reading their mail. If the sermon, as John Stott once said, is a journey between two worlds, the Life Coach has a masterful grasp of the realm in which his listeners dwell especially when it comes to applying the message. Indeed, this is what most of the message is given to. Listeners often come away thinking how much wisdom they’ve received from this kind of preaching because the Life Coach is so adept at giving fresh, helpful next steps. Preaching is mostly informal and conversational.
Emotional bandwidth: Varied. However, I find most in this preaching style to be fairly relaxed peppered with brief points of more intense emotional elements.
Examples: Andy Stanley, Rick Warren
#4: The Prophet
Strength: Insightful with conviction. The Prophet sees the disconnect between what is and what should be. They tend to be naturally expressive teachers who not only want you to hear what they’re saying but more so to feel what they’re saying. Prophets push to the conflict and emotional tension. They are also generally more physical in presentation in that they are more demonstrative. In contrast to the Professor, Prophets can say more with less material because they tend to be more extemporaneous speakers. They can go off on tangents and think of fixed sermon lengths as a nice idea…but only an idea (or figment of someone’s imagination).
Emotional bandwidth: Largest emotional range. They can cry, shout, laugh all within a three-minute period…and it makes emotional sense for them to do so in the eyes of their listeners.
Examples: John Piper, Matt Chandler
Which of these do you resemble? What is your primary and/or secondary style? What would those who know you say about you? Remember, generalizations necessitate exceptions as well. However, the point of figuring out your preaching style is not to typecast you but encourage you to leverage the strengths of your personality in preaching instead of trying to be someone else in the pulpit. As I’ve said before, it’s much more preferable to be a better you than a poor version of someone else.