Sermon quotes on preaching

Louisa May Alcott

“I don’t want a religion that I put away with my Sunday clothes, and don’t take out till the day comes around again; I want something to see and feel and live day by day.”

An Old-Fashioned Girl

Bernard of Clairvaux

I preached myself, the scholars came and praised me. I preached Christ, the sinners came and thanked me.

Wendall Berry

I weathered even the worst sermons pretty well. They had the great virtue of causing my mind to wander. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have though of during bad sermons.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events.

Frederick Buechner

Unless those who proclaim the Gospel acknowledge honestly that darkness . . . they might as well save their breath for all the lasting difference their proclaiming will make to anybody.

Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1983), 46.

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

I came to believe that my job was not to receive and critique a sermon but to dig into it, to seize its power, to participate with its message, and to steal its fruit.”

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith

John Calvin

Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults.

Fred Craddock

Building anticipation into one’s preaching simply calls for one basic understanding of the task of the pulpit: the goal is not to get something said but to get something heard.”


Billy Graham

Preach with authority. The authority for us is the Word of God. Preach with simplicity . . . Preach with urgency . . . heaven and hell are at stake. Preach for a decision.”

Billy Graham in Quotes

Billy Graham

Preachers are not salesmen, for they have nothing to sell. They are bearers of Good News.

Billy Graham in Quotes

Billy Graham

God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. The weaker I became, the more powerful became the preaching.

Billy Graham in Quotes

Gregory of Nazianzus

The scope of our art [preaching] is to provide the soul with wings, to rescue it from the world and give it to God, and to watch over that which is in his image—if it abides, to take it by the hand; if it is in danger, to restore it; if it is ruined, to make Christ dwell in the heart by the Spirit; and in a word, to deify and bestow heavenly bliss upon one who belongs to the heavenly host.

Second Theological Oration, 22

John of the Cross

It must be pointed out to the preacher, if he is to cause his people profit and not to embarrass himself with vain joy and presumption, that preaching is a spiritual exercise rather than a vocal one. For, although it is practiced by means of outward words, its power and efficacy reside not in these but in the inward spirit. Wherefore, however lofty be the doctrine that is preached, and however choice the rhetoric and sublime the style wherein it is clothed, it brings as a rule no more benefit than is present in the spirit of the preacher.

The Ascent of Mount Carmel

Darrell W. Johnson

I repeat: the pressure to apply is a modernist pressure, not a biblical pressure. William Willimon observes that most congregations love hearing preaching with this application emphasis. The only problem, he says, is that such preaching is not biblical preaching. The ‘subtext’ of so much of this must-apply preaching is, ‘You are gods unto yourselves. Through this insight, this set of principles, this well applied idea, you can save yourselves by yourselves’.”

The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God’s Transformation of the World

Timothy Keller

It is a mistake to think that faithful believers in our time are not profoundly shaped by the narratives of modernity. We certainly are, and so when you unveil these narratives and interact with them in the ordinary course of preaching the Word, you help them see where they themselves may be more influenced by their society than by the Scripture, and you give them important ways of communicating their faith to others.

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Penguin, 2016.

Timothy Keller

A sermon that just informs the mind can give people things to do after they go home, but a sermon that moves the heart from loving career or acclaim or one’s own independence to loving God and his Son changes listeners on the spot. 

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Penguin, 2016.

Timothy Keller

Resist ending your sermon with “live like this,” and rather end with some form of “You can’t live like this. Oh, but there’s one who did! And through faith with him you can begin to live like this too.” The change in the room will be palpable as the sermon moves from primarily being about them to being about Jesus. They will have shifted from learning to worship.

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Penguin, 2016.

Søren Kierkegaard

People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are the critics, blaming or praising him. What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage; he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines.

Abraham Lincoln

I don’t like to hear cut and dried sermons. No—when I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.

Richard Lischer

Never by any possibility must the minister’s speech become a rival to his subject; that were to dishonor Christ, and not to glorify him.”

The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

Martin Luther

To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching.”

On Christian Liberty

Martin Luther

Preach [and live] as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow.

Oscar A. Romero

A church that doesn’t provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — what gospel is that? Very nice, pious considerations that don’t bother anyone, that’s the way many would like preaching to be. Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties, do not light up the world they live in.

The Violence of Love

Donald Sunukjian

…our people probably already know 90 percent of any biblical instruction we plan to give them. The reason they are not yet obeying biblical truth is not because they don’t know it but because they don’t yet buy it.”

Invitation to Biblical Preaching: Proclaiming Truth with Clarity and Relevance

Barbara Brown Taylor

The sermon is no place for a virtuoso performance; it is a place for believers to explore together their common experience before God. The stories I tell from the pulpit are not just “my” stories but “our” stories. Which are God’s stories, too. The stool of my sermon rests evenly on those three legs. If any one of them is missing (or too long or too short). the whole thing will wobble and fall.

The Preaching Life

Ian Pitt-Watson

What is preaching? It is proclamation, not just moralizing. It is Good News, not just good advice; it is gospel, not just law. Supremely, it is about God and what he has done, not just about us and about what we ought to do.

A Primer For Preachers

Ian Pitt-Watson

At the heart of it, preaching is the telling and retelling of Christ’s story and our stories from creation to parousia. It is the remembering of the stories with a special kind of remembrance of which the Bible speaks (Old Testament zakar, New Testament anamnesis), a remembrance that does not merely call to mind the thing remembered, but that makes it real, present, potent, and demanding here and now.”

A Primer For Preachers

John Wesley

Give me 100 preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God; such alone will shake the gates of hell.

Richard Wurmbrand

It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners. It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their [the communists’ ] terms. It was a deal; we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching. They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.

Tortured for Christ

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