Heels Together, Shoulders Back, Chin Down

Founders Journal 74 · Fall 2008 · p. 1

Heels Together, Shoulders Back, Chin Down

Tom Nettles

This issue of the Founders Journal deals with the issue of “Posture in Preaching.” By posture we are referring to the overall approach one makes to the task. With what mental attitude does a preacher of the gospel approach the specific time of proclamation? He should ask himself, “What kind of language will be most effective in making my appeal and most appropriate to unfold the burden of the text? How can I mold the message of this text, not distorting it, with a view to bringing the hearers to decide in its favor? To what frame do I coax my mind for this time of self-abandonment to the glory of God?”

Roger Duke has presented an engaging and helpful rhetorical analysis of a potent evangelistic sermon by Spurgeon. This attempt is certainly not anomalous, for Spurgeon was quite conversant with the discipline of rhetoric and viewed it positively. He recommended the study of rhetoric to his ministerial students and commended the proper use of it as a means of increasing one’s usefulness. He shows how Spurgeon’s careful use of sacred rhetoric did not hide the text or make his presentation seemed contrived, but served to open the text in its intense passion for the truth and for the souls of his hearers. Roger’s analysis helps give us an awareness of useful rhetorical devices.

Phil Newton reinforces this idea in his investigation of how doctrine must fire appropriate application. He shows how the Bible gives warrant for a variety of ways in which effective application can be made in order to drive the hearer to see the seriousness of the Bible’s demands on his life. He gives us insight from several master craftsmen of the art of truth-application and includes examples from his own preaching.

My article is a simple attempt to sensitize all of us who preach the gospel to the importance of the mental attitude and spiritual perceptions we have as we approach the pulpit. How should our minds be fitted for this oppressive opportunity to bring eternity into intersection with time? In what manner should we consider those precious minutes? With what spiritual attitude should we approach the stance we take as heralds of the message of God to saints and sinners? How can we minimize the intrusion of those selfish trivialities that so feverishly hover around the edges of our minds pressing to be released into the center of this divine/human encounter?

Jeff Robinson has written a personal interaction as well as a succinct review of the recent Mullins Lectures on Preaching at Southern Seminary. Those lectures, by Ray Ortlund, Jr., mesh with a most pleasing symmetry with the subject of this issue of the journal.

As always we pray that your time reading it will be well spent.