Study and preparation are vital and they are important to being the preacher that God wants you to be. But, let me tell you what is wrong with a lot of us. We go to college, go to seminary, get educated, hang enough degrees on the wall to look like a thermometer, and then we get this idea we are doing God a big favor by preaching His Word when we could have been successful in business or we could have been highly successful doing something else. I want to say this to every one of us. When we stand up to preach, God is not depending on us, but we are depending on Him. You can go to seminary to learn how to preach, but you’ve got to go to God to get the message.
Paul says something that sounds very self-deprecating, but I believe he was just being honest.
“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:3, NIV)
It wasn’t so much that Paul had a fear of public speaking, but I think Paul realized on the one hand, the unbelievable accountability and responsibility that comes with preaching God’s Word. On the other hand, he was a clay vessel, imperfect, and in so many ways far removed from the Jesus he was preaching about. In one sense, Paul, himself, was extremely weak, but then listen to what he says,
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4, NIV)
That word “demonstration” is a very interesting word. It is a legal term that refers to proof that would stand up in a court of law. What Paul was saying was, “If being saturated with the Spirit of God is a crime, then I am a criminal.” I want to teach you something about preaching which will show you why I chose to develop this topic rather than just simply talk about study. There is a difference between preaching in the flesh and preaching in the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 says,
“Because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5, NIV)
It really doesn’t matter how well you outline, how cleverly you alliterate, how much you study, or how appropriate you illustrate, your preaching is just sanctified hot air if it is not saturated with the Spirit of God. It will be a great day when we learn that our job is not to persuade people to accept the Gospel. Our job is to preach the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and let Him persuade people to accept the Gospel.
Incidentally, what I just said is true, not just for preaching, but for every aspect of the ministry of the church. If the church’s worship is to be pleasing, it must be anointed by the Holy Spirit. If the church’s witness is to be productive, it must be anointed by the Holy Spirit. If the church’s warfare is to be powerful, it must be anointed by the Holy Spirit. If the church’s walk is to be pure, it must be anointed by the Holy Spirit. All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down. Our preaching must be saturated with the Spirit of God.
Author: Dr. James Merritt, Senior Pastor of Cross Pointe Church and host of Touching Lives