The Church Fathers (and others) On Preaching


Just a collection of some great quotes from the Fathers and other preachers through history on the call of preaching! Not an extensive list of quotes, but some wonderful wisdom here nonetheless:

“The scope of our art [of preaching] is to provide the soul with wings, to rescue it from the world and give it to God, and to watch over that which is in his image—if it abides, to take it by the hand; if it is danger, to restore it; if it is ruined, to make Christ dwell in the heart by the Spirit; and in a word, to deify and bestow heavenly bliss upon one who belongs to the heavenly host.”

-St. Gregory Nazianzen

“You have had to acknowledge and complain that often, because you talked too long and with too little enthusiasm, it has befallen you to become commonplace and wearisome even to yourself, not to mention him whom you were trying to instruct by your discourse, and the others who were present as listeners.”

-St. Augustine

“Unless the man who means to win understands every aspect of the art [of preaching], the devil knows how to introduce his agents at a single neglected spot and so to plunder the flock.”

-St. John Chrysostom

“The preacher should be sensitive to the mind of his hearer and never overtax it, for the string of the soul when stretched more than it can bear can very easily snap…For all deep things should be covered up before a multitude of hearers, and scarcely opened to a few….Every preacher should give forth a sound more by his deeds than by his words; by good living he should imprint footsteps for men to follow rather than by speaking show them the path of truth.”

-St. Gregory the Great

“Preaching improves me. When I begin to speak, weariness disappears; when I begin to teach, fatigue too disappears. Thus neither sickness itself nor indeed any other obstacle is able to separate me from your love….For just as you are hungry to listen to me, so too I am hungry to preach to you. My congregation is my only glory, and every one of you means more to me than anyone of the city outside….Oftentimes in my dreams I see myself in the pulpit speaking to you.”

-St. John Chrysostom

“A sermon may be prepared beforehand, or it may not be. If it is to be stronger than a double-edged sword (carrying Truth on one edge, and cutting down falsehood on the other), it must first of all be prepared in prayer. If the Spirit of power is given from above, the sermon will be ‘a success’ (i.e. will convince, inspire, heal, liberate, help the building of the Kingdom of God). If the spirit is not given, the sermon will either distract or weary the listeners…Sermons in church should not be unctuous, abounding in archaic words, and platitudes and no artificial rhetorical devices are necessary. The preacher’s words should be direct, simple, spiritually pure and have no ‘worldly’ taint about them…”

-Archbishop John Shahovskoy

“One should preach not from one’s rational mind but rather from the heart. Only that which is from the heart can touch another heart. One must never attack or oppose anyone. If he who preaches must tell people to keep away from a certain kind of evil, he must do so meekly and humbly, with fear of God.”

– Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica,

Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

“A man who first tried to guess ‘what the public wants,’ and then preached that as Christianity because the public wants it, would be a pretty mixture of fool and knave”

-C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

“To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching.”

– Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty

“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are the critics, blaming or praising him. What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage; he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines.”

-Søren Kierkegaard

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.”

– John Wesley

“We complain today that ministers do not know how to preach; but is it not equally true that our congregations do not know how to hear?”

~ J.I. Packer

“The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes all hell shake.”

-Charles Spurgeon

“Preach like you know they almost didn’t come.”

— Fred Craddock

“God has ordained that our preaching become deeper and more winsome as we are broken, humbled, and made low and desperately dependent on grace by the trials of our lives.”

– John Piper

“To be effective the preacher’s message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God’s present voice to a particular people.”

– A.W. Tozer

“Like a conductor ‘rendering’ Beethoven so that that particular music exists only in that occasion, so the preacher renders a text so that it only exists in that particular form in that particular occasion of speaking.”

— Walter Brueggemann

“My child, night and day remember the one who preaches God’s word to you, and honor him as though he were the Lord. For wherever the Lord’s nature is preached, there the Lord is.”

-The Didache (ca. 70 AD)


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About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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