Without question, one of the most effective preachers in the modern era was Charles Finney. Finney was a primary leader in the Second Great Awakening and has been termed by many as the “father of modern revivalism” (Charles Finney: The Father of American Revivalism). Revival historians site that several hundred thousand souls were saved under Finney’s preaching, and that an astounding 85% remained true Christ (Duewel, Wesley. Revival Fire, 92-93). A man with such a record of effective revival preaching ought to know a few things about how to get results, and how not to get results, in preaching. The follow list of 15 ways to preach without results, comes from a larger list of 27 points, written by Charles Finney.
- Let your supreme motive be to increase your own popularity- then, of course, your preaching will be suited for the purpose, and not to convert souls to Christ.
- Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, lest they should say to you, as they did to Christ, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?”
- Avoid all illustrations, repetitions, and emphatic sentences that may compel your people to remember what you say.
- Avoid all heat and earnestness in your delivery, lest you make the impression that you really believe what you say.
- Be careful not to testify from your own experiences of the power of God [assuming you have a testimony], lest you should produce the conviction upon your hearers that you have something which they need.
- Denounce sin in general, but make no reference to the specific sins of your present audience.
- Do not make the impression that God commands your listeners here and now to obey the truth. Do not let them think that you expect them to commit themselves, right on the spot, to give their hearts to God.
- Preach salvation by grace; but ignore the condemned and lost condition of the sinner, lest he should understand what you mean by grace, and feel his need for it.
- Do not speak of God’s holy law (by which comes the knowledge of sin), lest the sinner should see his lost condition and flee from the wrath to come.
- Make no appeals to the fears of sinners, but leave the impression that they have no reason to fear.
- Admit, either obviously or casually, that all men have some moral goodness in them; lest sinners should understand they need a radical change of heart, from sin to holiness.
- Say so little of hell that your people will think that you do not believe in its existence yourself.
- Make no disagreeable references to the teachings of self-denial, cross-bearing, and crucifixion to the world, lest you should convict and convert some of your church members.
- Do not rebuke the worldly tendencies of the church, lest you should hurt their feelings, and finally convert some of them.
- Do not rebuke the extravagance in dress, lest you should make an uncomfortable impression on your vain and worldly church members.
(Charles G. Finney. Sermon 1)
After reading this list, what are some things you might need to change about your preaching, or teaching, in order to get results? Leave your comments below.
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