Preaching With Kindness
Be sure every message communicates the love of Christ
While talking recently with a pastor who had asked me for feedback on his sermons, I pointed out that he often raised his voice for the duration of his messages. There is nothing wrong with being passionate about what you have to say. But I told him the grace and care that came across in one-on-one conversations wasn’t translating to the pulpit.
In his desire to be bold, the pastor was not allowing his kindness to show through.
What about your preaching? What version of you are people getting to know from the platform? It may not be the full picture.
When you think about preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit, you may envision a fiery messenger with deep insight, perhaps even operating in signs and wonders.
But true spiritual preaching should demonstrate not only the gifts of the Spirit, but also the fruit of the Spirit. One fruit that is easy to overlook in sermon delivery is kindness. How do you preach boldly but also kindly?
What Is Kindness?
Some people see kindness as a liability or a sign of weakness. Many leaders, especially men, seem to think they need a tough exterior to show their followers how capable they are.
Kindness is not weakness. It’s also not a matter of agreeing with everyone. You can clash with others, and even challenge them, while still maintaining a Christlike attitude. Kindness doesn’t mean you never upset anyone. It doesn’t even mean you can’t raise your voice or express disappointment or frustration. Kindness does mean you do those things in a loving and healthy way.
So, what is kindness? First, it’s a fruit of the Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). Kindness is often exemplified in gracious action toward others, including compassion. It’s what God demonstrates when He saves us (Titus 3:4–5).
Significantly, kindness is a prerequisite for ministry (2 Timothy 2:24). It should be reflected in your attitude while preaching, as well as in how you treat others when you’re not in the pulpit.
Leading with Kindness
We often overlook the parts of our delivery that get positive responses. However, some people may be turned off by loud or heated speech and just not tell you.
Of course, kindness goes far beyond delivery style. Yet there is a heart attitude that comes across in your word choices, your stories, and even your body language. Here are some things to keep in mind, not only while you’re preaching, but also while you are prepping your message:
God revealed His love and kindness toward
us through the gift
of His Son.
Assume the best. Spirit-led preaching will challenge listeners. That means you should gauge where they are currently and what congregants can do to become healthier. Then you should motivate them to make the necessary changes.
While judging how church members are doing in their walk with the Lord, it’s easy to think of worst-case scenarios. Assuming the best might seem like you’re giving them a pass. But extending grace and trusting God to help people do what’s right can be an expression of kindness.
Calling out someone from the pulpit, whether you know them personally or not, doesn’t show kindness. Instead, it reveals a judgmental attitude. Going to that person face-to-face is an act of kindness. While preaching, assume the best of everyone in the room, as well as those watching online.
Show compassion. God revealed His love and kindness toward us through the gift of His Son. He showered compassion on us.
Compassion is often defined as love in action. From a biblical perspective, it can be explained as a deep feeling that urges a response. Kindness will never be confused with anger when your message has plenty of heartfelt moments. Consider how people will perceive your words and actions. Do they come from a heart of love or a mind of anger?
Go easy. Kindness and gentleness are often paired. That doesn’t mean they are the same thing. But a gentle spirit and attitude will always reveal a kind motivation.
Gentleness is another fruit of the Spirit some may see as weak. It’s true that people who are gentle and kind are often vulnerable. They are honest about their own feelings and willing to take others’ feelings into account as well. But vulnerability is a great asset to any leader and an important component of competent preaching.
Smile more! Preachers communicate with more than just words. It’s a combination of vocal tone, facial expressions, and even movements. How you stand can tell people a lot about what you think, for instance.
While you’re preaching, make sure you are conveying the right emotions. If you’re preaching on joy, why would you frown? When talking about the grace of God, why would you scowl? Match how you’re preaching with what you want your listeners to know about you personally.
One way to think about being a kind preacher is to consider the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). Of all that Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, this may be the most crucial.
How we treat others doesn’t guarantee equal treatment in return. But it does go a long way toward demonstrating the truth of the gospel. No one was more passionate about that message than Jesus — and no one was more kind than Jesus.