Vol. 7, No. 6
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In the book Seventy Years in Dixie, T. W. Caskey recounts the general opinion of preachers and styles in the early 1800's, when he said, "The people formed their opinions of a sermon, not so much from what the preacher said, as the way he acted." The serious business of saving men's souls demanded the utmost fervency in their minds. A mistake was made then, and now, of preferring style to substance.
In contrast to the fiery prophets of that by-gone era, Alexander Campbell, a contemporary, held audiences in rapt attention for hours with an unaffected simplicity of manner almost wholly without gesticulation. One of the greatest preachers of our generation, in my judgment, is a man whose speaking style might be called monotone, and who hardly moves an inch in any direction behind the pulpit, but whose knowledge of the Bible, preparation and use of words are nothing short of amazing. To expect this man to throw fire down the isles while running all around the pulpit would be like mixing oil and water.
As I recall, the New Testament teaches us to take heed how we hear (Luke 8:18), and what we hear (Mark 4:24). This places the weight of importance on substance rather than style. In many cases, error is camouflaged in pleasing personalities and powerful appeals. It is still a problem that many times people are not listening to what a preacher says as much as how he says it.