Character is an Essential Element of Preaching

Character is an Essential Element of Preaching

A couple of posts ago we considered the essential elements of preaching.  The words we use are essential to effective preaching.  Also, the passion we express is essential to effective preaching, as I indicated in the last post.  In this post we are going to look at the third element of effective preaching.  Put simply, character is an essential element of preaching that makes an impact.  Remember that we are looking at the three elements of rhetoric, or the art of persuasion: logos, pathos and now ethos (word, passion and character).  These three aspects of communication aren’t only taught by Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher.  They are also described in the Bible.  Consider 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5:

For we know, brothers and sisters[a] loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

Do you see it in these verses?  Not just words, Paul says, but also with power and with deep conviction (passion).  And it was accompanied by the life that Paul and others lived (character).

With that said, let’s consider how important the element of character is for the preacher.

What Ex-Christians Think

Recently I came across a website called  In one part of this site there are what they call “testimonies” of people who had been Christians, but who now rejected their previous faith.  I read many of those stories.  I would categorize the reasons for rejecting of Christianity this way:

The reason given most often was the hypocrisy of Christians.  The second reason given is the failure of God to answer prayers, or “show up” at the right moment.  The second of those reasons is something I’ll address in a future post.  For now, let’s look a bit more intensely at the hypocrisy charge.

Consider this challenge, reported by Phillip Yancey in his book, Vanishing Grace,  (p. 81):

When a poll of college students asked, “Write the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Christianity,'” the most common answer was, “People who don’t practice what they preach.”

The Importance of Character As An Essential Element of Preaching

This quote, those stories, and many other examples that I could give, remind us that character is an essential element of preaching that is going to change lives.  People are not going to listen to someone preach about marriage, for instance, when that person is unfaithful in their own marriage.

There is a skepticism about Christians today, generally speaking, and so, when a preacher preaches about sexual purity, and then is accused of sexual abuse, the message will be rejected, along with the messenger.

In the United States, respect for Christian preachers is at an all-time low.  Maybe that is true where you live, too.  There have been too many reports of moral failure among preachers of the Gospel, and too many have been exposed as charlatans, cheating people out of their money in a promise of healing.  In my country, the identification of Christianity with one political party and its apparent lack of concern for the poor and people of color has hurt the message greatly.  In one survey done in 2009, people were asked their view of Evangelical Christians.  Only 3% had a positive view, as compared to 85% in 1996!

So, we preachers need to be especially mindful of our character, or, as several people have said, before you practice preaching, you had better practice what you preach.  Or, as I put it in a previous post, walk the talk.

Developing Character

If character is an essential element of preaching what do I need to do in order to be and come a person of character?  Here are some suggestions that I have found helpful.

Develop a deep prayer life

I’ll be looking at this more later in this blog.  However, here is a truth:  You can take your people spiritually only as far as you yourself go.  So learn to pray.

Find a personal accountability partner or partners

I connect with a man who holds me accountable for my life choices.  He knows my sins, my temptations, and my inclinations.  Yet, I know he loves me and prays for me regularly.  Our connection happens once per month on the telephone, because we live in different areas of our country.

Have people praying for you

I’ll talk about this again later in this blog, but I remind you today that having people pray for you can put a shield of protection around you.

In the next post we are going to look at the reality of life–you are going to fail at being perfect.  Everyone does.  I’ll introduce you to a great sinner and possible saint.

Pastor Vladimir Savchuk has a Youtube video on how to develop character by walking with the Spirit.  Here it is.  Enjoy.