Preaching, Publicity, and Fame (Grimke)

Meditations on Preaching

I’ve mentioned this book here before: Meditations on Preaching by Francis Grimke. Although born into slavery in 1850, Grimke was freed at a young age. Sadly, he was later captured and sold back into slavery. After the Civil War he went on to college and then attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he graduated in 1878. He then became the pastor of 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Grimke served there faithfully for around 40 years.

Grimke’s book, Meditations on Preaching, is actually a selection of quotes on preaching from various places in other writings by Grimke. This morning I ran across the following quote that I thought was quite helpful. It is addressed to pastors who might be looking for popularity and fame.

Often when we are about to speak in public, it is not the good that might be accomplished by doing so that we are thinking about, but rather, what effect what we have to say will have in enhancing our own reputation, and setting us in a more favorable light with the public. We love the praise of men, and alas, that is what, in too many instances, we have in mind in the efforts that we put forth.

Instead, what we should have in mind in all our efforts is to magnify the truth, to set it to clearly and forcibly before the hearers, so that they will remember what is said, though they may forget the speaker. It is not important that the speaker should be remembered, but it is important that the truth should be. Unfortunately, in too many cases, instead of thinking about making better men and women, we are thinking about ourselves, about enhancing our reputation, of magnifying ourselves. Of such conduct we should be heartily ashamed. The opportunities that are afforded us of preaching the word are too sacred to be used for such unworthy purposes.

The more completely we lose sight of ourselves, the more effective will our preaching be, the more good will be accomplished by it. Are we trying to help the hearers, to do them good, or to win their praise? It is to help them to be better men and women, or to get them to think more highly of us, of our ability, of our eloquence? This should be early settled in our ministry, if we are to count for much in the kingdom of God.

Here’s a line from the above quote worth repeating and remembering:

It is not important that the speaker should be remembered, but it is important that the truth should be.”

Francis Grimke, Medidations on Preaching (Madison, MS: Log College Press), 63.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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