Over the last few months, some words by the Apostle Paul have been shaping my thinking about preaching.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 …
My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God. (CEB)
And, similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 1.5, he says …
… our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. (CEB)
Communication skills are important. We should certainly seek to grow and develop our skills and gifts. We should learn how to craft compelling messages (the book I’ve blogged about more than any other is a book on communication called, Resonate; this post includes links to all of the posts I’ve written about the book).
But preaching—the act of presenting and communicating God’s Word—is different than other forms of communication. It’s more than a presentation. When preaching takes place with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit, the presentation has a greater impact than mere words alone can possibly have. God does something in the lives of the hearers that preachers, no matter how skilled, can do on their own!
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a formula for experiencing a demonstration of the Spirit in preaching (at least I haven’t found one). But John Ortberg indicates that it’s simply part of the preacher’s life (see his article, When Bad Sermons Happen to Good Preachers).
I don’t know the formula, but I do know that prayer is huge part of the mix (see Preacher & Prayer). And cultivating a deep, vital, growing relationship with God!
That’s not always easy to maintain in ministry. A. W. Tozer laments, “In an effort to get the work of the Lord done we often lose contact with the Lord of work.”
Interestingly, early on in the life of the Church, the apostles hit a point where they needed to refocus their priorities. In the end, they decided to recruit a team and release ministry to them so they could “devote (themselves) to prayer and the service of proclaiming the word” (Acts 6.4, CEB). Communicating God’s Word and prayer must go together!
To help maintain my focus, Paul’s words have become part of my prayers …
O God, please let my message and my preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ, be presented not just in speech or mere words—even convincing wise words—but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power and with deep conviction, so that people’s faith won’t depend on human wisdom but on the power of God! Amen.