Preaching style has to do with the preferred ways a preacher uses to communicate truth with his audience. This includes verbal as well as non-verbal communication; the way the talk is organised, structured and presented, and the way the preacher’s personality comes through.
Besides reading scores of books on homiletics since seminary, I find it fascinating to observe and learn from the way other preachers preach. There is much to glean, and some discoveries are useful to weave into one’s personal preaching style.
On 27th November 2022, Bishop Robert Solomon was the guest preacher in World Revival Prayer Fellowship, my home church. He is a well-known former lecturer and Principal of Trinity Theological College, and had served as the Methodist Bishop, and is a prodigious author of many books.
I have read his book, “Till Christ is Formed in Us”, a book gift from my good friend Seng Chor, who had invited him a few times to speak about spiritual formation to the men’s ministry in Holy Grace Presbyterian Church. I always wondered what kind of preacher he was. Some write well but preached ineffectively. Others preached well, but wrote poorly. By the end of the sermon, I was convinced he excels in both, a rare combination indeed!
It was the first time I heard him preach. He connected well with the church and I was so moved by his message that I went on to listen to him on YouTube. There are things I observed in his messages that the most experienced preachers need reminders of. We preachers can constantly grow in our wholeness in Christ, and hone our craft of preaching, by imitating the good we see in other models who preach what they faithfully live out. I here offer my observations of Bishop Solomon’s preaching style.
First, his presentations are in a conversational tone. He preaches like he would talk with anyone, but with an enhanced tone. He does not have the dramatic preaching tone of revival preachers of old, nor the booming thunder of evangelists like Billy Graham and Reinhard Bonnke. His manner of speech does not grab the attention. Rather, the conversational tone gradually draws one into a circle of trust. The listener would feel like he or she was listening comfortably to a friend, feeling relaxed and open. There is sufficient variation in the tone of his voice not to sedate you into a daydream. He does not read from the manuscript, but he refers to his notes occasionally. He is stationary most of the time, keeping guard of the word, standing behind the pulpit, a cameraman’s dream.
Second, he takes pains to preach the real meaning of the text. Isn’t this what every preacher is supposed to do? He preaches the truth in the context of the passage and the whole book. He explains what verses his truth, insights are drawn from, clearly basing them on the scriptures as the source of authority. When required, he explains the cultural practices of that time and the historical context and draws rich insights from them. Occasionally, he dips into the original Greek text to highlight a truth. He is well-read, with theological breadth and depth and a grasp of what’s happening in the society and world events, and he constructs a bridge in “between two worlds”, to use the sub-title of John Stott’s well-written book on “Preaching”.
Third, his sermons have a logical outline that can be followed even though he does not use power-point. He is probably one of those who does not believe in using power-point in sermons. He is orderly and disciplined and seldom veer and meander from his main outline. He shows how the different points relate to the central truth he was delivering.
Fourth, his sermons have substance and interesting insights. He does not squeeze, or force, or stretch scriptures to come up with fanciful angles and fresh interpretations. His words are deliberately plain, unvarnished of theological terms, but effectively conveys the truth. Solomon is no Spurgeon, whose sermons are rich, with every sentence containing a flourish: a turn of phrase, a metaphor or simile or image. These days nobody preaches like Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers. Maybe, I would make an exception of Peter Chao of Eagles Communications. I think, Obama did speak in this grand oratorical style though.
Fifth, Bishop Robert Solomon connects well with the church audience because he explains and applies the truth with examples, analogies, illustrations, stories, and practical ideas of how to practice the truth he was expounding. He has a good sense of humour and he is able to help local believers laugh at themselves and the way they behave in church and in ordinary life. He is never harsh in his critique of Singaporean church life, values and it’s witness in the marketplace. He gently reproves. He uses humour to disarm. He provokes by handing us the mirror of the word to make us think and feel more deeply. This is an art, it is not easy to do.
I have written enough. Maybe those who have heard more of his sermons and messages, his congregation members or students in seminary, can contribute their observations with their comments. I am sure many have been blessed by his preaching ministry. Please feel free to share your observations or how you have been blessed.
By the way, the sermon Bishop Robert Solomon preached in my home church can be accessed directly at the 1 hour 8 minutes mark of the video HERE.