Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Which person do you preach in?

After preaching last Sunday I was given some feedback about the person I preach in. I've always preached in the second person as opposed to the second. I'm not sure where I've got this from, but I will say "You are sinful" against "We are sinful". I think in the context of preaching this is better, and in a bible study or one on one situation speaking in the 1st person is preferable. However, the criticism came because it was in the context of being sinful and identifying with Israel. Because I was saying "you are sinful, you are like Israel", it was suggested that it may be wiser to say 'we', as I too am sinful and like Israel. I don't agree, as I think it penetrates the listener's heart more effectively, and I'll just hope they don't think I'm claiming to be perfect.

Which do you do, and why?


Dave Miers said...

i generally want to do both.

maybe not in the same sentence... but if it's a hard hitting sermon to teenagers about sin... yes i want them to feel the weight of it and hear "you" but i think it's part of humility and integrity that i apply the same application to "me" and "us" in the same talk.

i think preachers can maybe hang out too much dirty laundry? but i reckon it's good to be real... and show that this word from God is for me too.

i love you geoff.

Anonymous said...

As one who is new to the whole preaching thing, I have kinda struggled with the same issue. On the whole, I will use the 3rd person plural, because I still identify myself as a member of my congregation, and I see it as getting alongside them, and encouraging them.

Yet, there are certain situations where I will change to 2nd person to make a stronger point. Most often, I think about using it in the take-home cash-value (whatever cliche you use) part of a talk, where I want to challege directly my hearers on an issue. For me, the difference is timing, context, and impact. If I use 2nd person constantly, I lose then have no way of making that important point stronger.


geoffc said...

Dave - Whether or not you meant it, that felt like a cyber hug. I love you too.

I think you are right though. Kinda like; "You are sinful, you have done wrong...we are not deserving of anything at all". I hear ya!

Steve - Good points about not wanting to lose your audience through sounding arrogant. But did you mean to say 3rd person plural? I imagine that'd be the worst person to speak in. I'd be like 'great, he's talking about some other group needing to repent' ;-)

Jason Au said...

There are points at which the preacher needs to tell the congregation that he too is a target of his own preaching and that he is not some guy up on a hobby horse talking down to the little people.

Anonymous said...

3rd person 1st person same diff (if you have multiple personalities...)

yups, 1st person is what i meant

SamR said...

Late to the party...

I generally try to be intentional in varying it. At times I'll use 'we' where appropriate, and 'you' at other times. Often I'll use 1st singular in an illustration that is about myself and also functioning as application - as western listeners tend to read themselves into every story.