Fluff Or Substance?

by | Oct 22, 2020 | Deeper Life | 2 comments

I have done public speaking now for over forty years. I have taken seriously Martyn Lloyd Jones’ thoughts on what makes for good public speaking. He stated that there are two aspects to effective speaking/preaching: content and delivery. One can have good content but be as dry as the proverbial dust. One can also “strut and fret his hour upon the stage” (Shakespeare) and offer nothing but fluff. Chesterton, in his critique of Orwell, stated that Orwell’s writings were as broad as the ocean but only two inches deep (with little substance). I have always wanted both content and delivery to leave the people with the sense that, as the Athenians said of the apostle Paul, “We will hear you again on this matter” (Acts 18:32).

A friend once counselled me, to which I have used often when speaking with others about what should be the focus in ministry. “Preach the Word”. The apostle Paul, in his counsel to Timothy, was of a similar vein. “Preach the Word! Be ready in season, out of season”. Elsewhere Paul counsels Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15). Good preaching requires disciplined study. Disciplined study requires parsing the text in its historical context, exploring its theological meaning and applying it to our modern setting. There is a direct correlation between time spent in the study and good content.

A wise counsellor once cautioned young pastors (aged ones should also take note) of having a scheduled time where the sole focus is on the study of the Word, in a set location, away from the distractions of life. This requires a shift in mindset for some preachers. The “tyranny of the urgent” will rob the preacher of valuable time spent in the study of the Word and ultimately will result in the congregation being fed only milk and not the meat of the Word.

Fluffy preaching is like “chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4), with no substance. A criticism of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:10 were that “his letters are weighty and forceful”. Would that accusation be laid against many of the churches of this day or would they simply be likened to chaff? A preacher who is undisciplined in the study will ultimately leave the people parched and dry. They may have the semblance of being alive but are in reality spiritually shallow or at the worst, spiritually dead.

The Bible is still the Word of God,  “quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul from spirit . . . a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb.4:12). If it doesn’t cut through the thoughts and intents of the preacher’s heart, how can that person expect it to do so with the congregation? Preaching, full of fluff and no substance, will leave the people Biblically shallow. For this, as the Scriptures warn, God will hold the preacher accountable for this travesty.

It is incumbent upon a preacher that the Word be prioritized, in both the study and pulpit. It is equally important that the congregation encourage the preacher to give priority to the study of the Word. Both will be well-served!



  1. janice maloney

    I believe Dave, that every time you came to the pulpit you preached God’s word.
    We were always encouraged, great blog.

    • Dave

      Thank you for your kind words. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths. We can’t go wrong when we center our lives in His truths. Be richly blessed!


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Dave Griggs, MDiv

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