As you might expect I did not get a ton of opportunities to preach as a new pastor. When they came I was almost paralyzed by both the opportunty and the fear. I was so excited but so afraid. I love to preach…but I was scared to mess up. So I did what any sensible, insecure, young pastor would do: I quoted stud theologians to make my point. It was always good to bring in respected giants from church history to make your points, right? Ehhh…maybe not.
At this same time a very good friend and I would work out in the mornings together. We would lift and run and talk about the sermon from the weekend. When I’d preach he’d give me very constructive and helpful feedback. But one day my friend, Tyler, gave me something big. He said, “I think it’s more effective for you to meditate on the passage a bit longer and say something that is yours rather than quoting all these guys. Be gripped by the text; I’d rather hear you then them.”
Oh, the wounds of a friend. This was so good. Tyler had tipped over my homiletical cart and identified my faulty security blanket. He pinpointed a weakness in my prep (meditation) and indicted my own trust in what the Holy Spirit was leading me in during my study and prayer time. It was like he dropped a 45 lb. plate on the foot of my pride. It was awesome.
Since that time I have found myself carefully evaluating the theologians on my guest list. Do I really need to have them at the sermon party? Do they add value? Distract? Are they a crutch for me? Are they short-circuiting my prep? I will still quote a guy here and there but it is far less.
Pastors need to be careful with who and how often they quote. In addition to the above we may unwittingly promote an authority that appears higher than the Bible. Who would want to create an evangelical magisterium? Furthermore, while quotes may add flavor and fresh air to the sermon, they cannot overcome a stale, cold heart in the preacher. We must, as pastors, be able to draw and serve some fresh water from the well of our own souls on Sunday mornings. Quoting guys may help this but they cannot replace it.
In the end, Tyler’s advice was on the money, “Don’t just quote but be quotable.” This is a quote worth sharing.