Effective preaching is characterized by a biblical sort of bluntness. Another way of saying it is that faithful preachers are willing to speak the truth – however hard hitting that truth might be. Such bracing bluntness marks out the preacher who makes his mark. Think of the greatest expositors down the centuries. Were these men not forthright rather than mealy-mouthed?
Bluntness, by the way, has nothing to do with temperament. It has scant reference to a man’s volume or his tone. There have been softly spoken men whose preaching could shatter rocks!
Neither is bluntness the same as rudeness. To be blunt is to be direct and outspoken. To be rude implies a certain disregard for a person. But the preacher proclaims God’s truth in a spirit of love.
Bluntness – The Bible’s Own Style
Bluntness should be seen as consistent with biblical proclamation. After all, the aim of preaching is to proclaim the Scriptures, and the Scriptures themselves are characterized by bluntness. If the Bible is anything, it is direct. Consider the following examples:
“Unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
“Whoever loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mat 10:37)
“You cannot serve both God and money.” (Mat 6:24)
“I am astonished that you are…so quickly turning to a different gospel.” (Gal 1:
“Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.” (Jam 1:21)
“Out of the same mouth come both praise and cursing. Brothers, this should not be!” (Jam 3:10)
“Dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3:18)
Direct, wouldn’t you say? The Bible – in contrast to much contemporary speech – does not um and ah. We do not find the words of the Prophets, Jesus or the Apostles to be littered with maybe’s or perhaps’. If God had spoken uncertainly, we would be obliged to speak with diffidence. But if God has spoken clearly, then so must we.
A Few Guidelines Concerning The Right Kind Of Bluntness
a) Love the people you are being blunt with
Truly love them. If they are lost, feel an ache that they are headed for hell and preach to them bluntly so that they will be snatched from the fire. If they are children in the family of God, love them enough to tell them hard truths when they need to hear it. Examine your motives. Pray for God’s love to fill your heart, even as his truth fills your mouth.
b) Stick tightly to the Scriptures in your bluntness
When the Scriptures speak bluntly on an issue, we should speak bluntly too. But too many preachers speak forcibly on hobby-horses that are either extra-biblical or non-central to the Bible’s message. Let’s be direct and passionate at the same points where the Bible is.
c) Steer clear of crudeness in your bluntness
There is a difference between being direct and crude. I think the Bible itself models this distinction, especially when it comes to addressing sexual sin, where the Bible speaks directly but never crudely (see Paul doing this masterfully in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
d) Show a range of emotions in your bluntness
As I said earlier, being blunt does not necessarily require that we always be raising our voice. Nor does it mean that we speak with a constant furrow on our brow! Direct and challenging preaching can sometimes be delivered with humor and a smile. At other times, the bluntness will be accompanied by the preacher’s tears and a whimpering voice. Still at other moments, we will be middle-of-the-road in our delivery: speaking the truth in a calm, straightforward manner. Bluntness wears all sorts of emotional clothing.
Still Learning To Be Blunt
I must admit that I am quite shy by temperament. My tendency is to speak with caution, rather than just ‘say it as it is’. But as I open the Bible daily, I discover that God’s Word is forthright. Blunt even. May God teach me, then, to speak as plainly as He does.