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Joined: 2003/9/13
Posts: 230
Goa, India

 My Style Of Preaching - Zac Poonen

God, in His great wisdom, decided that He would save people by “the foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor.1:21-KJV). Preaching God’s Word is therefore the greatest work that any human being can be engaged in. I feel greatly honoured that God called me to this ministry. But preaching is also the one ministry that has been abused the most, by money-loving preachers and deceivers.

We are commanded to seek earnestly for the gift of prophecy (which is the gift of preaching in such a way as to encourage, challenge and build up people – 1 Cor.14:1,3). So I began to seek God for this gift as soon as I was baptized (at age 21). And when God anointed me with the Holy Spirit (at age 23), He gave me this gift as well. In the beginning, I was tempted to try and impress people with my preaching and to move them emotionally. But one day the Lord asked me, “Do you want to help people or do you want to impress them.” I said I wanted to help them. Then the Lord said, “Then don’t try to impress them.” It was not easy to overcome the temptation to impress people, but I fought against it, and gradually overcame it.

Each preacher has his own particular style of preaching. Most Indian preachers imitate American charismatic preachers. I decided that the best thing for me would be to pattern my preaching after Jesus’ style of preaching. So I studied the way Jesus preached.

The first thing I saw about Jesus was that He preached only what He had already practiced. He did first and then taught (Acts 1:1). So His preaching always had a practical application. I knew that the Bible commanded me to “prophesy only according to the proportion of my faith” (Rom.12:6) – in other words, only up to the level of my spiritual experience. But I failed here, because I fell a prey to the temptation to impress people. And so, I ended up in a backslidden condition for some years. But God was merciful to me and filled me with the Holy Spirit again in January 1975 and restored me. I decided then, that I would preach thereafter only what I had already experienced, or (at least) what I was earnestly seeking after. God then took me through varied trials in order to teach me His ways and how to trust Him in difficult situations. Thus I grew in faith and wisdom – and I could pass on this faith and wisdom to others through my preaching.

Secondly, Jesus always preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. When He walked with the two disciples to Emmaus, He preached to them for two hours and their hearts burned within them throughout those two hours. I kept this example before me and wanted to preach like that every time. A chicken-leg taken out of the freezer is totally unappetizing. But the same leg when cooked on a fire makes everyone’s mouth to water. That is the difference between cold truth and the same truth preached with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Utter dependence on the anointing of the Holy Spirit therefore became primary in all my preaching. I pray every time I speak that God would anoint me in such a way that my words would set people’s hearts on fire.

Thirdly, Jesus spoke primarily to people’s minds and not to their emotions. His preaching challenged people and convicted them and stirred them to faith and obedience. He never whipped up their emotions the way many preachers do nowadays. We are told to love God with all our hearts and also with all our minds. I felt that all my messages must be like well-cooked meals – both nourishing and tasty!! So I needed to take more pains in preparing a sermon than any housewife ever took to prepare a good meal. A good housewife also lays out her meal in an attractive way. I also needed to arrange my thoughts clearly, before I preached. Many preachers do not do this – and end up wasting people’s time by wandering around in their preaching. God is a God of order (1Cor.14:33,40) – and He is glorified when a message is presented in an orderly, understandable way.

Fourthly, Jesus had the right word for each occasion because of two reasons: He listened to His Father constantly (Isa.50:4) and He had a great love for people. So I studied God’s Word in all my spare moments to know God’s mind accurately. To understand the Scriptures, many preachers study Hebrew and Greek. But I saw that what I needed was not a knowledge of these languages, but the revelation of the Holy Spirit, since He was the Author of the Word. The Holy Spirit taught me many glorious truths from His Word that I never heard from any human being. These truths led me to a close walk with God and saved me from the deceptions and counterfeits that are flooding Christendom today. The Spirit then enabled me to teach these truths to others. The Holy Spirit also flooded my heart with love and compassion for His people (Rom.5:5). Thus my ministry gradually became one of encouragement and conviction, and not one of legalism and condemnation.

Fifthly, Jesus preaching was always interesting - and never boring. It is a sin to waste people’s time. Most preachers don’t realize that stealing people’s time is just like stealing their money. If we bore a congregation of 200 people for just 15 minutes, we have thereby robbed them of 50 man-hours of their time. If their average wage is Rs.50 per hour, we would thus have stolen Rs.2,500 from them in those 15 minutes. So I prayed to God that He would help me to preach in an interesting way and never bore anyone. In the early days, I could do this only for short periods of time. So I spoke only briefly then. As I grew in the knowledge of the Lord, I could speak for longer periods of time.

Sixthly, Jesus used many simple illustrations to make His message clear. He spoke about bread, fishes, birds, trees, flowers, pearls, farmers, buildings, etc., His simple illustrations made the deep truths He spoke about, much easier to understand. He did not seek to get a name for himself by using complicated illustrations that only clever people could understand. I sought to follow Jesus’ example here too. At times, I would look at some of the least educated people sitting in my church, and speak at their level. Then I found that my messages could be understood by everyone. I would ask little children after my preaching, whether they had understood what I had said. If they had not, then I knew that my preaching had to become still more simple.

Seventhly, Jesus used humor and exaggeration at times. He spoke of a camel going through a needle’s eye, of people straining out mosquitoes and swallowing camels, of those who had big logs in their eyes while looking for specks in the eyes of others – and thus He exposed hypocrisy and spiritual pride. Humour can sharpen a message and make it interesting, just like spices can add taste to food. Some preachers however go to an extreme in this, and try to make people laugh all the time (just to get a reputation for humor). Such preachers become like circus-clowns! I never use humour in my messages to entertain people – but only to keep them attentive during a long message, or to drive home a point.

Eighthly, Jesus repeated His messages many times. He did not seek for the honour that one can get, by preaching something new or fanciful on each occasion. People need to hear the same truth many times before they can be gripped by it. So I decided that I would not try to impress people by preaching something new in every message, but would repeat a message many times, until people were gripped by that truth. But every time I repeated a message, I would seek to present it in a fresh way, as led by the Spirit.

Ninthly, Jesus spoke without using notes. Because His walk with the Father was so close and intimate, the Spirit gave Him words to speak, even while He was preaching. Most preachers cannot speak like that, because they do not walk so close to God. And so it is best for 99% of preachers to prepare their messages carefully and to use written notes, if they want to preach effectively. That was how I started. But nowadays, I speak most of the time without using any notes. But when taking a Bible-study, I still use notes and write down the verses so that I don’t forget any point. So I'm not a slave to either using, or not using notes, since neither of these methods is more spiritual than the other. If anyone wants to speak effectively without using notes:

1. He should have walked with God for many years, so that he can speak from his life’s experience.

2. He must be living under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and have the supernatural gift of prophecy.

3. He must know the Bible so well, that he knows what it teaches on any subject.

4. He must have a good memory so that he knows where to find the verses on any topic.

5. He should have good communication skills so that he can hold people’s attention for the entire length of his message.
If anyone doesn’t have all these five qualities, then it is better for him to use notes when preaching.

Finally, Jesus never shouted while preaching (Matt.12:19). Nor did He say “Hallelujah” every now and then in His messages. I have followed Jesus’ example here too. When preachers shout in their preaching, it is not the fire of the Holy Spirit usually, but just their soulish attempts to manipulate people; and their “Hallelujah”s are merely a habit or “time-fillers”, while they are thinking of what to say next!

In my preaching, I have sought to get people to obey God’s Word and to take up the cross daily and follow Jesus – and not just move them emotionally for a short time. The goal of my preaching has been “to present every man perfect in Christ” (Col.1:28,29; 1 Tim.1:5).

Shibu Clement

 2007/3/11 23:48Profile

Joined: 2005/5/9
Posts: 659

 Re: My Style Of Preaching - Zac Poonen

thanks shibu, this is a great article

 2007/3/12 1:02Profile

Joined: 2007/2/9
Posts: 640
Southern California

 Re: My Style Of Preaching - Zac Poonen


I am very impressed by what you have learned from Jesus' teaching style, and how you have used it for your own work.

I agree that whan possible a speaker should use as few notes as they can and still give a coherent sermon, for the continuous looking for information is distracting from the message. Never the less, it is better to used notes to assist a good, coherent preaching style until memory is enough.

One preacher I know needs notes after many years, but he uses small notations on small pieces of Post-it note paper tucked into his Bible, using different colors, and numbering them so that he can follow several different trains of thought without distracting the congregation.

I myself, am an evangelist through writing only on the internet, and I find that as I work more and more with the Holy Spirit, notes are not needed, but I do simply follow what the Holy Spirit wants me to say as quickly as possible, then go back through my writing many times until I am satisfied that it is clear and in order.

Thank you for writing of your discoveries in Jesus' teaching.

Many blessings to you,

Forrest Anderson

 2007/3/12 2:46Profile

Joined: 2005/11/10
Posts: 530

 Re: My Style Of Preaching - Zac Poonen

I just heard Zac preach recently and can say that he definitely exemplifies, in general, everything written here. Simple communication, steady presentation, spiritual and not emotional, and often with excellent theological balance. This brief article is a worthy read for any preacher or Christian speaker.

 2007/3/15 11:00Profile

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