Francis James Grimke (1850-1937) was a presbyterian minister in Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, Florida. An African-American pastor, highly respected for his long leadership and preaching, he also gave voice and leadership to the church’s work of reconciliation. Born into slavery, he was freed, serving as a valet to a Confederate officer during the Civil War, attending Lincoln University and Princeton Seminary before becoming a pastor. A recently published volume collects his thoughts on preaching. It is easy to read, interesting for its historical value, but valuable because its counsel is such that is needed today in great measure.
His counsel is wise help for preachers and also those seeking to pray for their pastor.
Grimke’s thoughts on preaching highlight the following themes and characteristics of what good preaching is:
- Good preaching is serious. “Preaching is serious business — serious for the preacher…Serious also for the hearers, in that it places them also under equally solemn obligations to listen carefully, attentively to what is said, and to lay it up in their hearts…” (103)
- Good preaching will always be focused: “Each sermon should be made vital, should have a definite spiritual aim, and everything that enters into it should tend to further the end sought.” (56)
- Good preaching will bear clear and structured: “How important it is in preaching…that we preachers should know definitely what we wish to preach about and that we carefully map out the lines along which we desire to develop the subject…” (50)
- Good preaching recognizes its privilege: “More and more I am pressed with the privilege, the glorious privilege which ministers of the gospel possess in the opportunities offered to them week after week…of implanting deep in their hearts the truths of God’s word…” (63)
- Good preaching relies upon the Holy Spirit: “The secret of effective preaching, and by effective, I mean followed by results, depends, in part upon careful preparation, and also, and particularly, upon reliance upon the Holy Spirit to make effectual what it said.” (44)
- Good preaching favors the spiritual preacher: “We need educated ministers, yes; we need men who know what is going on in the world around them, yes; but the great need is for men who believe firmly in the Scriptures as the word of God…” (33) “The true minister must live in touch with God, in close, intimate touch with him, if he is to interpret God to men, and to bring men sensibly near to him.” (58)
- Good preaching requires hard work and common sense: “We need common sense; we need intelligence; we need the disposition to work, and to work hard in the ministry.” (83)
- Good preaching is simple: “It is a mistake to crowd too many things into a sermon and to have too many heads and sub-heads. Let it be simple in its structure and development.” (73)
- Good preaching aims for the heart and for results: “…I have desired and have sought to preach helpful sermons, sermons that meet the real needs of the human heart in the midst of life’s trials, struggles, temptations, sorrows.” (7)