It is regrettable that we have dis posed of the reading stand which was formerly used, and replaced it with a big pulpit. I once heard one of the great preachers of America state that pulpits are an invention of the devil to keep the preacher away from the people. We are told that "everything about a man preaches." Then why cover up four fifths of him?
It would be far better to step away from the pulpit frequently and to talk with more freedom. When the speaker is glued to his notes or to a pulpit, it accentuates his lack of poise. Neither .does it help him to be prancing back and forth on the rostrum like a dog chained to his kennel. He needs freedom, but not that kind of freedom.
Do some of us become lazy preachers leaning on pulpits, lying down on them? And do we now have to talk through amplifiers even in small auditoriums? Then shame on us! That is not strong preaching at all! Should we not stand up, letting the people know that we are speaking with authority? The best experience for public speaking is preaching in the open air. There you have nothing between you and the people. There you stand up on your own and talk out of your heart. But you must certainly know your subject. And you will soon learn to know people.
As fishers of men we must watch that we fish for all types of people, for in one audience we discover a wide range of types. Sister White entreated that in every sermon there be "a corner for the children." It might be even better to have two, one near the beginning and one near the end of the sermon. Many adult listeners still have the intelligence of a child, and their minds wander like the children's. It is therefore necessary in our presentation that we arrive at the less intellectual level. But what about the man who is a deep thinker maybe a historian? When the preacher speaks right out to him, while it may be lost on the crowd, still it grips him and he will say to himself, "That man really knows what he is talking about," and the scientist on the back row also decides, "It seems that fellow knows what he is talking about." And then you return to the average listener and speak again on his level.
A well-planned sermon ought to reach all types of people. In thirty minutes it should send out at least five or six different "baits" to catch them. When Jesus spoke, His hearers were all gripped. Preachers of Ihe Advent message must be able to preach in that way. Through these various avenues the hearts of all types of men should be reached. The purely intellectual must be gripped by our measured and well-balanced approach. He will not be offended, but gripped. But you must also touch his heart, because his heart, not his head, needs saving. He may be a Ph.D., but if his heart has not been touched, he will not be in the kingdom. He must have a new heart and somebody yes, you must appeal to his poor heart. It is not sufficient for him to say, "That sermon really suited me; I was impressed by it. It shows me you have been reading some good books." No; that man must leave the meeting in a different frame of mind from what he had when he entered. He must warmly grip your hand and say, "Preacher, what you said strikes home to me. May I have a talk with you? I wonder if we could have a chat somewhere?" He then begins to open his heart to you and you can see that his poor heart is deeply touched that is what true preaching must do. But, my brother minister, you will never touch men's hearts unless your own heart is first touched by the Holy Spirit. Real preaching is not from lip to ear, but from heart to mind, and from mind to heart.
"THE SMALL RAIN"
"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doc trines shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." Deut. 32:1, 2.
Too often our distinctive doctrines come crashing into our sermons like a violent cloudburst, washing away all the tender roots of faith. After we have sown grass seed, and the soil is all soft and mellow, it is a tragedy when a heavy rain comes along and beats down in torrents, or a great hailstorm knocks down those tender young plants and rips up everything. How thankful we are, however, when a gentle, refreshing rain showers down, and then in a day or two lovely green shoots spring up all over. That is a picture the Lord would give us as to how we are to give present-truth doctrines to the people today.
Doctrine should be dispensed as the gentle "small rain" falls upon the tender grass. And these doc trines we preach should then distill as the dew. How often I have traveled through those wonderful orange groves in California or Florida at the season of the year when the blossoms are so beautiful! In the evening, when the dew is on each blossom, the air is filled with an exotic fragrance.
Is not this a beautiful illustration of how our doctrines should be presented? When we present the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon in such a way that the Holy Spirit can distill with the dew of the presence of Christ, those heavenly word pictures used by us will charm the audience. They will breathe in the fragrance of that doctrine naturally, and as Jesus is then presented in all His beauty, listeners will see the true beauty of the doctrine. It will then not be a great cloudburst of unfamiliar truth, but rather as the gentle "small rain" that will bring forth the perfection of beauty and fragrance of the life of Jesus.