What do the preacher's hands say?

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hand with crossed fingersI've never seen a video of myself preaching. I hope I never do. It's painful enough to hear a recording, and I can only imagine that a video would be excruciating. Regardless, if you've ever worked with video, you know that you can make anybody look ridiculous if you freeze the video at the right moment. Still, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, actions speak louder than words, and body language speaks volumes. 

A pastor asks, "Can anyone point me to a esteemed book on the exegesis and theology of hand gestures within sermon delivery?  I would like to learn more about this topic."

Whether or not they are esteemed, I don't know, but there are several recent books that go on at great length about this topic. For example, in Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon Bryan Chapell says, "Our eyes, faces, hands, and movements participate in what we say or may carry a message all their own that we never intended to communicate. Some communication studies have actually concluded that we communicate more by what we gesture than by what we vocalize." He also goes on at length on hand gestures, posture, facial animation, eye contact, voice, etc. 

Similarly, The Oxford Handbook of the Early Modern Sermon reports on the importance of style to the reformers, referencing "the extremely influential handbook on preaching by William Perkins, The Arte of Prophecying (1607). Perkins gives detailed attention... even to pitch of voice and hand gestures."

And last but certainly not least, here is Spurgeon evaluating and denouncing certain preachers based on how they use their hands:

Some have tried to imitate unction by unnatural tones and whines; by turning up the whites of their eyes, and lifting their hands in a most ridiculous manner. M'Cheyne's tone and rhythm one hears from Scotchmen continually: we much prefer his spirit to his mannerism; and all mere mannerism without power is as foul carrion of all life bereft, obnoxious, mischievous. Certain brethren aim at inspiration through exertion and loud shouting; but it does not come: some we have known to stop the discourse, and exclaim, "God bless you," and others gesticulate wildly, and drive their finger nails into the palms of their hands as if they were in convulsions of celestial ardor. Bah! The whole thing smells of the greenroom and the stage. The getting up of fervor in hearers by the simulation of it in the preacher is a loathsome deceit to be scorned by honest men.

Image credit: Evan-Amos

Joseph and his wife, Heidi, have five children, Tate, Eliza Jane, Moses, Fiona and Annabel. He graduated from Vanderbilt University and Clearnote Pastors College. He is currently planting Christ Church in Cincinnati with several other families.