A triple champion in boxing is a guy who has won three different titles in three different weight classes. The first triple champion of boxing was Bob Fitzsimmons, who after holding both the middleweight and heavyweight belt, added the light heavyweight title November 25, 1903. I always wonder how these guys switch weight class. Sometimes, moving up will give one less mobility while giving up strength against heavier fighters. Moving down may give one a bit more strength but more mobility against the lighter fighters. Many different factors will also impact the moving up and down the weight scale. Most fighters, even at the elite level, cannot switch weight classes this successfully. Preaching is something like switching around different weight classes.
When we first started to preach, we try to get all our academic learning into our sermons (e.g. Greek and Hebrew words, syntax, theology etc.). Soon enough, we find out that our sermons can’t take off because of its added academic weight. I’m not saying that every preacher should be rid of such learning. In fact, some scholar-pastors have done well with that “weight” of preaching. Some can do it differently in different settings, depending on audiences. Others add so much rhetorical ornamentation in their sermons that they become fancy and funny public speeches without much biblical or faith-based content. For most of us mortals, we’re probably better off finding out what will feel comfortable for our sermons to work. And this takes time.
We have now come to our problem. What can we do to find our fighting weight? What do we need to get rid off or add on? Some of us may need to shed weight. The answer is different for different people, much like the perfect fighting weight for each champion or different people need different training routines. I have done so and will continue to do so with the craft of my sermons. I’ve also done so individually with each student I taught and coached. Sometimes, it takes an outsider who has an eye for both the Bible and communication to set up criteria.
The search for the ultimate fighting weight may be a painful process and sometimes when we experiment with moving up and down the weight classes, we encounter painful defeat and humiliation. Such is the journey of a preacher. The important thing is not to give up the search for the perfect balance. In my experience, it takes about an average of a decade or more of faithful hard work. I would love to use the cliché of telling you to enjoy the journey, but I can’t. The journey is not enjoyable, but the product may be worth it. Keep working!