Does Your Preaching Have Calories?

John Starke | June 23, 2016

A few friends recently suggested I read Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace and Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing, and I found it surprisingly prophetic to common habits and assumptions of modern preaching. The book is a long interview between lexicographer Bryan Garner and late author David Foster Wallace on writing.

I’m a preacher more than a writer, yet these insights illuminated some of my flagrant fouls as a preacher. Wallace is concerned about good communication—that is, why some material transforms readers and why other material, well, doesn’t. His words on writing reawakened my imagination for preaching.

Here are a few lessons.

Discipline of Clarity

I’ll begin with what Wallace dubs most important: clarity. “Probably the biggest thing for [young writers] to remember,” he says, “is that someone who is not them and cannot read their mind is going to have to read this.” May I translate for preachers? Probably the biggest thing for us to remember is that someone who is not us and cannot read our minds and did not read the books we read will have to listen to our sermons and understand them.


Like anyone else, preachers are forgetful people. We forget what it’s like not to be at…

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