Yesterday I wrote about the error of separating devotional spirituality from exegetical rigour. Skill in handling the Word should not be divorced from personal spirituality and our walk with the Lord. There is a very direct correlation. I’ll stay with this theme of not creating false separation with three more preaching and Holy Spirit related posts this week.
Today I’d like to address the myth that preparation for preaching somehow reduces the involvement of the Holy Spirit. You may know people who suggest something along these lines – “Oh, I don’t want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit, you know, and lean on my own understanding.”
It is a very real danger that prayerless preparation can cause us to lean fully on our own strength and to dismiss the work of the Spirit.
It is a very real danger that failing to prepare can cause us not to lean fully on the Holy Spirit, but rather on the random cocktail of energy stirred within by nervous tension and adrenaline, drawing on reserves of content that are neither fresh, nor suddenly “spiritual” due to our irresponsible and inconsistent view of ministry. (I am not here addressing the situation where preparation was not possible due to sudden need or massively impeded preparation due to unforeseen family/pastoral crisis.)
the right approach must surely be prayerful, Spirit empowered preparation.
1. The Holy Spirit does not guarantee that our interpretations of a passage are infallible. He will work with us as we show our whole-hearted, whole-mind, whole-strength love for the Lord as we study His Word to seek to truly make sense of it.
2. The Holy Spirit inspired the Word of God, and so is not insulted when we try our hardest to handle it well. Surely the insult comes when we brandish it as if it were merely magic words to be thrown at people.
3. The Holy Spirit is also at work in the lives of the people to whom we will preach. Surely it makes more sense to prayerfully prepare to preach to them, than it does to busy ourselves with other things and then suddenly claim Spirit empowerment in the moment of preaching. He is working in them all week, why not let Him work in the preacher too in anticipation of that preaching moment?
4. The Holy Spirit normally works far more consistently and progressively in both the preacher and the listener, rather than the relatively rare “intuitive flash” (which in some cases might very well be explained by other causes, though not always, of course).
5. The Word that the Spirit Himself inspired includes the instruction to a local church based preacher to “make every effort” in teaching the Bible accurately (2Tim.2:15). He hasn’t changed His mind.