Preach with Authority, Not Authorities
A first-class book, The Mystery of Preaching, by James Black (pp. 127-28) warns against quoting. Paradoxically, the author relies on quotations, which I borrow. “Have you noticed,” asked James Denney, “that the Apostles seldom quote, except from the source of their authority?” “In my experience of listening to sermons,” declared George Adam Smith, “no art is more difficult than that of using relevant quotations.”
The following comes to me from John Oman: “Preach with authority, not with authorities.” Christ “taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). This next comes from Howard Thurman: “Why do you quote so many authorities in your new book? If what you are saying is true, you do not need the authorities. If what you are saying is not true, all the authorities in the world cannot make it true.”
– Andrew Blackwood, Doctrinal Preaching for Today
Thanks for the post and quotes, Joel! Need to read both Black and Blackwood.
I agree – and repeatedly learn the hard way that while quotes are great in writing (as, above), they can be and usually are deadly in preaching. Not only for the reasons given, but also b/c they tend to bore congregants, and because if the thought is a good one, I should make it mine and preach it with gusto. Obviously, we don’t want to plagiarize, and need to cite sources, and often a better writer better conveys a thought, but why quote Spurgeon or Luther or Calvin in a sermon? Can’t we say it in our language and from our hearts?
And too, books or articles (esp. the academic types) are far removed from the genre of sermon. The latter is a very different animal, and Jay Adams has well written on this. We are not to lecture (must less, read papers!), but are to proclaim the living Word of God. Of course, it needs to be read, since it is alive & powerful as Hebrews tells us.