As a young preacher, I listen often to other men’s sermons in an effort to improve my own skills in the long-lost art of prophesying and, over the past few years, I have noticed a new device being used by many: Intentional Stuttering
Here are a few examples: “I – i – i – it’s kinda like when Jesus said…” “Y – y – y – ‘ya just gotta belive…” “N – n – n – now don’t hear me wrong…” The men who do this never speak that way outside of the pulpit, so it has to be intentional.
I conducted an Internet search on “intentional stuttering” and most of the results consisted of clinical advice to those who actually stutter and want to stop.
The only homiletic reference I found was a 2001 Tweet from John Piper in which he criticizes the practice, writing, “Academic stuttering, and the ubiquitous “um” and “ah” do not make for prophetic utterance.”
Mr. Piper’s advice was countered with a reference from 1 Corinthians 2:1, which suggests that the practice of intentional stuttering is an attempt to avoid the “excellency of speech” which Paul so clearly condemned.
However, based on the historical context of First Corinthians, and according to most commentaries, it seems that Paul was endeavoring to distinguish himself from the pseudo-philosophers by appealing more to the understanding of men than to fickle affections.
This standard interpretation is strengthened by the positive description of Paul’s speech as being “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4).
Intentional stuttering actually demonstrates the opposite. It affects insecurity and weakness. That is why people who have the actual communication disorder spend countless hours trying to correct it.
Would you feign a limp in order to appear weak (vs. 3)? Would you feign a lower I.Q. in order to appear as “not to know any thing” (vs. 2)? If not, then why would you feign communicative weakness?
In a misguided effort to follow the Apostle Paul’s example, intentional stutterers are actually doing the exact thing he endeavored to avoid: Employing practiced affectations in order to increase one’s rhetorical persuasiveness.
Brothers, if you have been practicing how to stutter more frequently and effectively, please stop. Just preach the word. Preach it with your own voice and rest assured: If you aim at the head, you will always hit the heart.
Pastor Christian McShaffrey