Communication Advice, Circa 1857
Written by Larry Greider
The field of communication has changed drastically in the last 150 years. But how much have communication best practices really changed?
Getting through to people has always been a challenge. The work of the Church of God involves spreading the message of Christ crucified and His return to the earth to restore all things. With modern communication tools, there is the opportunity to preach the gospel around the world; but there is also much background noise and clutter to distract people from hearing God’s message.
I recently came across some advice to preachers printed in 1857. This 154-year-old advice amazingly rings true for today. Whether you get to preach a sermon or hear one, write blogs or comment on them, I think you’ll find that George C. Bancroft’s advice still has merit when it comes to our passion for proclaiming God’s good news clearly.
Advice to Preachers
Geo. C. Bancroft, 1857
I have found the following rules to be of much service to myself and respectfully suggest to my brethren in the ministry the propriety of testing their merit:
- Resolve to be brief, as this is an age of telegraphs and stenography.
- Be pointed; never preach all around your text without hitting it.
- State your propositions plainly, but do not stop long to particularize.
- Avoid long introductions, but plunge into your sermon like a swimmer into cold water.
- Condense; make sure that you have an idea, then speak it right out, in the plainest, shortest possible terms.
- Avoid all high-flown language; quote no Hebrew or Greek; aim to be a simple preacher.
- Be honest enough to own that you do avail yourself of help from any source. But in using helps, be sure you never make STILTS of them, when your own legs are far better.
- Expect the Father’s blessing; you are his servant, and can do nothing without it.
- STOP WHEN YOU ARE DONE.
Among the many rules given the preacher, I have found it convenient to adopt the above, as being such as were profitable to me. And now my brother, if they will do you any good, you are welcome to them.
NOTE: After the death of a 91-year-old woman, relatives were preparing her home for sale and found this as part of a folded and worn religious newspaper called The Pittsburgh Christian Advocate. It was dated May 12, 1857. That’s almost four years before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated!
Of course, this is not the last word on communication, and there are times when some Hebrew and Greek can help clarify things. But still, isn’t it amazing how up-to-date his advice is for the digital age?
Larry Greider is a pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in Florida.