Are You a Drunk Preacher? You Are When You Use the Bible This Way.


By David Helm

Scottish poet Andrew Lang when landed a humorous blow against the politicians of his day with a clever line indicting them for their manipulation of statistics. With a slight alteration in language, the quip could equally be leveled against lots of Bible teachers currently: “Some preachers use the Bible the way a drunk makes use of a lamp post … additional for help than for illumination.”

This is the inebriated preacher. I suppose I do not have to inform you that you do not want to develop into one particular. The reality is, although, lots of of us have been one particular and just didn’t know it.

Let me clarify. On these weeks when we have stood in the pulpit and leaned on the Bible to help what we wanted to say rather of saying only what God intended the Bible to say, we have been like a drunken man who leans on a lamppost—using it additional for help than for illumination. A greater posture for the preacher is to stand straight beneath the biblical text. For it is the Bible—and not we who preach—which is the Word of the Spirit (see Heb. three:7 John six:63).

In essence, our propensity for inebriated preaching more than expositional preaching stems from one particular factor: we superimpose our deeply held passions, plans, and perspectives on the biblical text.

With decades of pastoral ministry now behind me, I can consider of myriad occasions I have been the inebriated preacher. I have gone to the Bible to prop up what I believed required to be stated. It became a valuable tool for me. The Bible helped me achieve what I had in thoughts. At occasions, I lost sight of the reality that I am supposed to be the tool—someone God makes use of for his divinely intended goal. I am to proclaim the light he desires shed abroad from a specific text.

What occurred to me in the previous can take place to any of us. There are a range of strategies we use the Bible the way a drunk makes use of a lamppost. Maybe you have extremely powerful doctrinal views and these develop into the point of each passage you preach, regardless of what the text is conveying. Maybe you draw political conclusions or social conclusions or therapeutic conclusions regardless of the thoughts of the Spirit in the text. In essence, our propensity for inebriated preaching more than expositional preaching stems from one particular factor: we superimpose our deeply held passions, plans, and perspectives on the biblical text. When we do so, the Bible becomes small additional than a help for what we have to say.


From individual practical experience, I can say that my personal struggles with inebriated preaching are generally connected to a blind adherence to contextualization. And what I have discovered is this: my congregation’s demands, as perceived by my contextualized understanding, really should under no circumstances develop into the driving energy behind what I say in the pulpit. We are not absolutely free to do what we want with the Bible. It is sovereign. It should win. Constantly.

Our function as preachers and Bible teachers is to stand beneath the illuminating light of the words extended ago set down by the Holy Spirit. Our job is to say currently what God when stated and practically nothing additional. For in undertaking so, he nevertheless speaks.

David Helm serves on the pastoral employees of Holy Trinity Church, a multi-congregational church in Chicago. In addition he is the Executive Director of The Charles Simeon Trust, which partners with churches to train males and ladies for gospel ministry. In this capacity, he leads workshops on biblical exposition to market sensible instruction in preaching. Helm is a contributor to Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching and the author A single to A single Bible Reading, The Huge Image Story Bible, and Daniel for You.


*Editor’s note:

This post is excerpted from Expositional Preaching (Crossway, 2014). In the book, Helm right here describes a time when he almost stumbled drunk into a sermon on two Corinthians 8–9, especially 9:6–9: “Before I entered into my study,” he writes, “I had a incredibly clear notion of what I would say from the pulpit.” But as he studied the background of the chapters, he realized he had these verses all incorrect. The additional he dug, the additional he found how off he was, till “the complete factor caved in.”

The passage wasn’t about imitating God’s generosity and getting a reward it was about how generosity is an ordinary mark of a righteous individual. Days just before stepping into the pulpit, Helm had to make a decision what would prevail: his original outline, which appeared on the surface constant with the text, or his new discoveries, which had the complete help of text and context. “In the final evaluation,” he writes, “the conviction that permitted Charles Simeon to physical exercise a mature restraint in the pulpit won the day for me. ‘I have a terrific jealousy on this head under no circumstances to speak additional or significantly less than I think to be the thoughts of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.’”


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