‘That’ll preach!’ But should it?

‘That’ll preach!’ But should it?

“That’ll preach!” is a silly phrase that gets bandied about in churchy circles.

The likelihood of hearing or saying this phrase increases exponentially based on the following factors:

  1. Attending a Bible college for a semester or more
  2. Involvement or exposure to Masters Commission or YWAM
  3. Interning in a local church
  4. Serving on a church staff (formally or informally)
  5. Attending a Christian conference by any of the following names: Catalyst, Calibrate, Climax, ChangeUp, or Collective
  6. Any time in a room where church leaders have discussed or brainstormed acronyms

If you have never heard this phrase, let me spin a tale for you.

Charlie and Frank are cleaning out the church basement in order to renovate a room for the young adult group. They are church interns and aspiring preachers. They look up to their pastor, who is currently in a 5-week sermon series called “Modern Family” based on episodes from the popular sitcom.

Charlie: “Hey Frank, can you run out and grab that box of tools from the backseat of my car?”

Frank: “Sorry Charlie, I forgot to grab that from your garage.”

Charlie: “Oh man, how are we going to finish the job?”

Frank: (looking forlorn and dejected) “My bad.”

Charlie: (looking suddenly optimistic) “You know what, forgetting the tools doesn’t mean the job can’t get done.

At this point Charlie and Frank look at each other with eyebrows raised, realizing that Charlie just said something that sounded vaguely spiritual and kind of interesting at the same time.

Frank: “Man, that’ll preach!”

Charlie: (looking like he just said something that qualified him for installment into the pantheon of people who say stuff into microphones): “Huh, yeah man, it’s like God has tools that we don’t have and if we depend on him when we make mistakes, we can get every job done that we work hard at. Man, I could throw Philippians 4:13 in there, grab a graphic that looks like the ‘Men at Work’ road sign, and that’s a sermon!”

No Charlie. It’s not a sermon.

Preparing a sermon is not about discovering phrases and ideas that we think will move an audience. Biblical sermon prep isn’t a hunt for a premise that seems dynamic and that we think we can parlay into some sort of spiritual lesson. It’s not about finding what will preach, it’s about finding what should preach.

It’s not about finding what will preach, it’s about finding what should preach. Click To Tweet

What should preach?

The Bible is the only thing that should be preached. Church members and cultural observers are rightfully weary of soapbox preachers droning on with spiritualisms and packaged clichés. There is even a call in many quarters for the death of preaching.

“What gives you the right to talk at us?”
“Who are you to tell others what to do?”
“The Church needs less monologue and more dialogue.”
“Younger generations in the Church don’t want sermons, they want conversations.”

The Bible is the only thing that should be preached Click To Tweet

Could it be that weariness about preaching is the fault of some (perhaps many) preachers? I hate to pile on. I prepare and preach sermons every single week. It is a tough business. But when I see fellow pastors posting about their latest sermon series, and when their ideas of good content sound more like Frank and Charlie than Moses and Paul, it makes me want to join the chorus calling for the death of pointless preaching.

Could it be that in the land of grand application, we have lost the conviction of grand proclamation? In an attempt to be relevant and dynamic have we forfeited all access to both? If connecting, conversing, and avoiding any hint of being ‘dogmatic’ are higher on your priority list than faithful proclamation of God’s written word, your sermon is better left unsaid.

Could it be that in the land of grand application, we have lost the conviction of grand proclamation? Click To Tweet

A biblical sermon is the only sermon worth preaching. Preparing a biblical sermon is not a matter of “Will this preach?” It is a matter of “Is this true?” You grossly tank your odds of finding and preaching truth if you don’t start with the sacred text of Scripture.

Preparing a biblical sermon is not a matter of “Will this preach?” It is a matter of “Is this true?” Click To Tweet