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Zeal vs. Art: The Preacher's Dilemma

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We are highlighting Leadership Journal’s Top 40, the best articles of the journal’s 36-year history, presenting them in chronological order. Today we present #33, from 1984.

The Book of Jonah is the tale of a reluctant preacher. Jonah’s message, as we have come to know it, is: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jon. 3:4).

A brief eight words. Surely there is more: some clever and imaginative introduction lost in the oral manuscript. There must have been iterations, poetry, and exegesis. But they are gone, and those eight words are all we know.

Such a miniature message seems anticlimactic. Even the king of Nineveh had more to say than Jonah (see vv. 7-9). But the lost sermon was preached and bore a stern word of necessity. Verse 10 states its effect: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”

The results of sermons in …

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