Yesterday we addressed the issue of preparing to preach, and how that is a part of ministry life that truly and profoundly involves the Holy Spirit (or at least, it should). The danger of divorcing our ministry from the Spirit persists into the preaching event too.
There are a few places where this danger lurks:
1. The notion that explanation is not needed from the preacher, for the Spirit will bring home the truth of God’s Word. I have come across this a few times. It comes across as if something profoundly spiritual is supposed to be happening as the preacher states the Word, but fails to explain it. It may be accompanied by knowing comments and tones that give the impression that those “in the know” have some sort of insight here, and hopefully the rest of us will get that mystery knowledge too. Then maybe the preacher carries on with this statement-without-explanation approach, or perhaps they move into a list of highly relevant personal applications (or anecdotes).
From my perspective this lack of explanation tends to come across to some as profound spirituality that inspires or intimidates, and at the same time it can come across to others as indicative that the preacher is incapable of explaining the text and is sort of bluffing. Preacher, lean fully on God’s strength and pray continually for the Spirit to be at work, and explain the text, that’s part of your role.
2. The idea that application is the Spirit’s work, not the preacher’s. I have come across this one more than the other, perhaps at the other end of the ecclesiastical spectrum. It is exemplified in my experience in a sentence that rings alarm bells – “Now may the Spirit apply to our hearts and lives the truths we have seen in His Word. Amen.” This sentence sometimes comes after a lengthy lecture of biblical content devoid of overt application and clarified relevance. Why is that somehow the Spirit’s role, but not at all the role of the preacher? Is this phrase suggesting that the explanation was all of the preacher, and nothing of the Spirit? I hope not.
So why not follow through and not abdicate a key role the preacher is called to – namely to not only lecture biblical content, but rather to communicate the meaning of the text with an emphasis on its relevance to the contemporary and specific listeners? Preacher, lean fully on God’s strength and pray continually for the Spirit to be at work, and apply the text, that’s part of your role.
One more area tomorrow – the whole matter of delivery.