The Greatest Temptation For a Preacher

We’ve all been there (okay, most of us have, at least). We walk up to a preacher after listening to them speak so eloquently, only to get confused once they start talking directly to us.

Temptation for a preacher

The preacher’s personality one-on-one is completely different than the personality you saw on stage. His voice, tone, everything in his speech is different. It’s like speaking with a different person.

Another scenario you may have run into is when a person starts preaching and you realize he sounds or acts exactly like another communicator that you know. His jokes, illustrations, tone, pitch, even hand gestures are all like the other preacher. A kind of preacher’s identity crisis.

I think most of us have been there at some point in our journey as preachers. We get inspired by some other preachers and try, sometimes without even realizing it, to preach like them.

I know I have.

For example, a few years ago, I had to come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t naturally funny. I realized that I wasn’t one of those people who can make a crowd laugh just by talking. You know those naturally goofy and funny people? Yeah, that’s not me. I’ve tried that, and it was too hard a performance to maintain.

There are also times that we preach like others without knowing it.

Here are 3 things that influence our stage voice.

  1. Our environment. No matter what traditions you come from, you have heard your share of sermons based on your background and culture. Truth is, we begin to take on the same characteristics as those preachers we have grown up with, listened to and watched.

This isn’t necessarily bad.

Remember, while recognizing how your traditions may have influenced you, just continue to ask yourself if you are preaching in a way that is you, rather than filling some mold that was set before you.

  1. Our favorite preacher. We all have that one preacher we enjoy listening to. After hearing so many of their sermons, we may begin to imitate certain things that they say and do. The problem is that their actions and words are probably natural for them, but that kind of performance requires a lot of energy by us. If you are not careful, you will begin to sound like that other person.

Don’t be a knockoff. God created you to be you. Discover your unique voice and be the best you can be!

  1. Bad Theology. At some point, for some reason, we bought into this idea that “anointed” preaching was supposed to sound a certain way. So we feel the need to mimic what we perceive to be “powerful” preaching. You begin to think that effective preaching means that you need to waive your hands, jump around on stage and allow your saliva to shower the audience in the first few rows.

Then the sound guy almost turns off your mic completely because you’re yelling so loudly.

That’s not powerful preaching.

Nor is it “anointed” preaching.

If your content (theology) is bad, you might stir up your crowd momentarily, but this won’t bring long-term life change to your listeners. I promise. Life change only happens when God’s truth (good theology) is proclaimed and the Spirit penetrates the minds and hearts of your audience.

Being influenced by your environment, culture and favorite preacher isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to be aware of all things that might influence you.

I challenge you to use your unique voice, the one that God has given you and not someone else’s. Just be yourself on stage. If you don’t normally “hoot and holler,” then don’t do it because other preachers do, or because you think that’s what makes good preaching.

If pacing isn’t your thing and you are comfortable standing in place behind the pulpit, that’s okay too. There is no right way to do this. Just find yourself and bring your natural gifts to every sermon.

It may take time. That’s ok.

The pressure to preach like someone else is unbearable. God designed us all in a unique way. You can only be you, so just be yourself. The desire to preach and sound like someone else undermines God’s work in us each special.

Trust me, when He knitted you and me in our mothers’ wombs, He made us the best we could possibly be. By copying someone else’s voice, we are implying that God made a mistake.

So what’s the greatest temptation?

It’s attempting to be like someone else by using another preacher’s voice and personality. The temptation is wrapped-up in the false belief that if we can sound like them, then people will listen to us the way they do to them.

This is another lie. Be careful, preacher. God made you with a unique voice – use that voice.

Question: Why are we tempted to sound like other preachers? Leave a comment below.

  • Michael Karpf

    It is very easy to copy other preachers whom we emulate. A well known pastor has all his sermons available written out on his website. It is very tempting to spend time in one of his sermons, and try to imitate him in the pulpit. But as I hear this pastor preach with passion, I realize it is only because of hours spent behind the scenes in prayer, study and meditation.
    I make it a practice to do my own exegesis first before looking at commentaries. Once I see if I have discovered the author’s intended meaning by looking at commentaries, or making changes if I haven’t, I might look at or listen to someone else’s sermon to see how they preached it and maybe some insights and illustrations. But this is always the last step in my study process.
    And I realized this. If I do all my homework, I don’t need to try to copy someone else’s sermon and give it like he does. Because I have done my homework, I am passionate about the text, I can go and preach it passionately myself.

    • Michael, we have similar practices in sermon prep. Thanks for leaving a comment! I hope you are finding this website useful! Blessings!

      • Michael Karpf

        Thank you for your encouraging words Yuri. I’m also a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and I’m thankful for the training I got there. I preach and teach at 3 churches in Bangkok. There is very little solid expository preaching here. Even with time difference, I have really benefitted from Dr. Abraham Kuruvilla’s insight, watching the W.H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship. And thank you for making this website available!