Out of Our Depth

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once made this very true statement, “The best man here, if he knows what he is, knows that he is out of his depth in his sacred calling.”  How true that is.  Only with a keen awareness of that reality will we avoid a ministry empowered by the flesh.  Let me probe this issue briefly with some rhetorical questions:

Do I feel confident in my ministry based on previous experience, ministerial training or affirmation received? This is a dangerous confidence to lean on.  We need to lean on Him only when we step up to preach.

Do I feel stirred to worship, to confess, to pray, to focus on the Lord as I prepare to preach? If these responses and similar are missing in preparation, something is missing for the preaching too.

Do I concern myself more with what people will think of my message, than what God will think of it? Surely we preach to our listeners, but we ultimately answer only to One (consider 2Tim.4:1 in light of verse 2).

Let’s never allow ourselves to forget the simple fact that we are out of our depth when we stand to preach God’s Word.

Apologetics for Homiletics – Part 2 continued

Does homiletics quench the Spirit? Yesterday I sounded a warning note concerning “false positive” feedback.  We’ve got to be careful not to assume the Spirit is at work in great ways merely because our listeners are excessively polite to us as they shake our hands and head for the door.  Obviously that is only a minor side-point. Here are some more important points:

2. The Holy Spirit does work during delivery, but also during preparation. Preparation is not unspiritual.  The Holy Spirit is not hindered by careful and prayerful preparation.  The Bible does not promise that we will be given what to say when we preach (only when brought to witness before authorities under persecution – Matt.10:17-20).  In fact, the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and cares more than we do that it is understood properly and applied appropriately.  How can shooting from the hip be more spiritual than a prayer-soaked preparation?  We should be careful how we define what is spiritual and what is not.

3. Just because the Spirit can work despite us, why would we want to limit Him to that? The best study of the Scriptures that we can manage, the best structuring and development of messages that we can achieve, the best communication skill that we can use . . . it’s all a matter of good stewardship, is it not?  God is not limited to our strengths, He specializes in using us in our weakness, for He gives grace to those who humbly recognize their need.  But shall we deliberately go on preaching poorly that grace may increase?  Not if we are being a good steward.

4. If homiletical instruction causes us to preach in our own strength, then we have a problem, Houston! Having said everything that I have in the first three points, there is a concern that we must all face.  In our good stewardship, we must not end up self-reliant or flesh-powered.  God opposes the proud.  We must allow any training or instruction we receive to humble us (good homiletics training is like opening a window shutter and discovering how vast and intricate the task of preaching really is!)

So that’s a start.  More thoughts tomorrow on this issue of defending the teaching of preaching!