How To Preach So As To Convert Nobody

By Charles G. Finney

(The following article is reprinted from the Restorer, February 1984. It has been adapted from an article by Charles G. Finney, published July 29,.1875. – DVR)

The design of this, article is to propound several rules, by a steady conformity to any one of which, a man may preach so as not to convert anybody. The Holy Spirit converts souls to Christ by means of truth adapted to that end. It follows that a selfish preacher will not skillfully adapt means to convert souls to Christ, for this is not his end.

Rule 1. Let your supreme motive be to secure your own popularity; then, of course, your preaching will be adapted to that end, and not to convert souls to Christ.

Rule 2. Aim at pleasing, rather than at converting, your hearers. Aim to make your hearers pleased with themselves and pleased with you, and be careful not to wound the feelings of anyone.

Rule 3. Give your sermons the form and substance of a flowing, beautifully written, but never-to-be-remembered essay, so that your hearers will say, “It was a beautiful sermon,” but can give no further account of it.

Rule 4. Be sparing of thought, lest your sermons contain truth enough to convert a soul. Make no distinct points, and take up no disturbing issues with * the consciences of your hearers, lest they remember these issues and become alarmed about their souls.

Rule 5. Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, lest they should say of you as they said of Christ, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” and lest you should injure your influence.

Rule 6. Denounce sin in the abstract, but make no allusion to the sins of your present audience. Avoid especially preaching to those who are present. Preach about sinners, and not to them. Say “they” and not “you,” lest anyone should make a personal application of your subject.

Rule 7. Keep the spirituality of God’s holy law, by which is the knowledge of sin, out of sight, lest the sinner should see his lost condition and flee from the wrath to come.

Rule 8. Preach salvation by grace, but ignore the condemned and lost condition of the sinner, lest he should understand what you mean by grace and feel his need of it.

Rule 9. Preach no searching sermons, lest you convict and convert worldly members of your church.

Rule 10. Do not make the impression that God commands your hearers now and here to obey the truth.

Rule 11. Do not make the impression that you expect your hearers to commit themselves upon the spot, and give their hearts to God.

Rule 12. Leave the impression that they are to go away in their sins and consider the matter at their convenience.

Rule 13. Make no appeals to the fears of sinners, but leave the impression that they have no reason to fear.

Rule 14. Make the impression that if God is as good as you are he will send no one to hell.

Rule 15. Preach the. love of God,. bu ignore the holiness of his love that will by no means clear the impenitent sinner.

Rule 16. Try to convert sinners to Christ without producing any uncomfortable convictions of sin.

Rule 17. Flatter the rich so as to-repel the poor, and you will convert none of either class.

Rule 18. Make no disagreeable allusions to the doctrines of self-denial, cross-bearing, and crucifixion to the world, lest you should convict and convert some of your church members.

Rule 19. Do not rebuke the worldly tendencies of the church, lest you should hurt their feelings and finally convert some of them.

Rule 20. Should any express anxiety about their souls, do not probe them by any uncomfortable allusions to their sin and ill desert, but encourage them to assure their perfect safety within the fold.

Rule 21. Preach the love of Christ, not as enlightened benevolence that is holy, just, and sin-hating, but as a sentiment – an involuntary and indiscriminating fondness.

Rule 22. Be sure not to represent religion as a state of loving self-sacrifice for God and souls, but rather as a free and easy state of self-indulgence. By thus doing you will prevent sound? conversions to Christ and will convert your hearers to yourself.

Rule 23. So select your themes and so present them as to attract and flatter the wealthy, self-indulgent, extravagant, pleasure-seeking classes, and you will not convert any of them to the cross-bearing religion of Christ.

Rule 24. Be time-serving or you will endanger your salary; and besides, if you speak out and are faithful you may convert somebody.

Rule 25. Lest your preaching make a saving impression, do not maintain a close walk with God, but rely upon your learning and study.

Rule 26. That your people may not think you in earnest to save their souls and, as a consequence, heed your preaching, encourage worldly expedients to raise money for church purposes.

Rule 27. Do not rebuke extravagance in dress, lest you should uncomfortably impress your vain and worldly church members.

Rule 28. Ridicule solemn earnestness in pulling sinners out of the fire, and recommend, by precept and example, a jovial, fun-loving religion, and sinners will have little respect for your serious preaching.

30:pursuit of it. Make the impression upon sinners that their own safety and happiness is the supreme motive of being religious.

Rule 31. Make little or no impression upon your hearers so that you can repeat your old sermons often without its being noticed.

Rule 32. If your text suggests any alarming thought, pass lightly over it, and by no means dwell upon and enforce it.

Rule 29. Cultivate a fastidious taste in your people by avoiding all disagreeable allusions to the last judgment and final retribution. Treat such uncomfortable doctrines as obsolete and out of place in these days of Christian refinement.

Rule 30. So exhibit religion as to encourage the selfish

Rule 33. Avoid all illustration, repetition, and emphatic sentences that may compel your people to remember what you say.

Rule 34. Avoid all heat and earnestness in your delivery, lest you make the impression that you really believe what you say.

Rule 35. Be tame and timid in presenting the claims of God, as would become you in presenting your own claims.

Rule 36. See that you say nothing that will appear to any of your hearers to mean him or her, unless it be something flattering.

The experience of pieachers who have steadily adhered to the above rules will attest to the soul-destroying efficacy of such a course, and churches whose preachers have steadily conformed to any of these rules can testify that such preaching does not convert souls to Christ. If souls are converted in congregations cursed with such a ministry, it will be by other means than the preaching.

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 7, pp. 212-213
April 7, 1988