“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” (I COrinthians 1:17)
It is definitely interesting in this day when “creativity” and “excellence” are elevated to almost canonical status, to read that that Paul purposefully did NOT preach in “cleverness” of speech, so that the message of the cross of Christ would not be obscured. (The word “cleverness” here is the Greek word “sophia” — we get our word “sophisticated” from it.) Paul did not try to be clever, sophisticated, or impressive in his language and presentation, because he wanted the simple message of the cross of Christ to be the focus.
Paul models here that we should be careful NOT to try to be “sophisticated” or “impressive” or “cultured” or “artistic” or “intellectual” in our presentations of sermons and Bible lessons. We may think these things to be helpful somehow, but according to Paul, they may actually hurt the ultimate aim of the message. Our goal is NOT show how “cultured” or “sophisticated” we are, but to communicate the gospel, and that in a way that focuses on the cross of Christ, not on things that entertain — and ultimately distract from that purpose.
Surely there is a balance here; we should do our best in our preparation and presentation. But much of what is elevated as desirable in preaching and teaching circles today may actually work against the gospel. Many are seeking constantly to be “creative”, and continually come up with something new and entertaining, when that is actually what we are NOT to do. Our responsibility is just to preach the word God gave us, and let His Spirit use it as He will.
So “Keep it simple, preacher.” Don’t try to be “impressive”, teacher; just share the word. Don’t make it your aim for people to walk away talking about how “learned” or “studious” or “sophisticated” or “entertaining” or whatever you are, but let them go away glorying in how simple the gospel, and how great our God is. There is a huge difference!