Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Inner Preparation

RT-Kendall-Totally-Forgiving-GodAre you missing the most essential part of sermon prep?

That God would call a man from the hills of Kentucky to England's Westminster Chapel is one of the great incongruities of church history. I was honored to serve at that famed church from 1977 to 2002. In fact, every time I ascended that lofty pulpit, I pinched myself.
Yet it was both a preacher's dream and a pastor's nightmare.
The dream: All I had to do was prepare sermons and preach them.
The nightmare: Being a good pastor from the pulpit only. John Calvin once said he would as soon enter the pulpit undressed as unprepared—and, believe me, the Westminster pulpit is one platform you do not want to enter having not done your homework.

Taking the Text to the People
I knew I had to be fully prepared every time I preached. Because of that, I consistently followed the principle of taking the text to the people versus taking the people to the text. The latter may smack of being truly pastoral, but I've learned that I did my people no favor by ostensibly catering to their needs.
Week after week for those 25 years, I saw how taking the text to the people always reached them where they were and met their needs in an amazing way.
Let me explain. If the congregation knew I was speaking to their particular needs, that was fine; but in that scenario they have no sense of God being aware of their needs—only me. Yet when I began with the text and was faithful to unfold its true meaning, people began to grasp that it was God who cared about them. After all, that is the only thing that matters!
How then do you prepare a sermon that begins with the text and therefore is God-centered? Always, my preparation depended on my willingness to be led of the Holy Spirit as I attempted to grasp the text's meaning. This meant that I had to be right with God, liv-ing a life that does not grieve the Holy Spirit.

The Ungrieved Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a very sensitive person and can be grieved (Eph.4:30). A preacher in Alabama once asked me, "What has a veteran like you got to say to a young whippersnapper like me?" My response: "Find out what grieves the Holy Spirit and don't do that."
I truly believe the most essential part of our sermon preparation is that our personal, private lives are governed by the ungrieved Holy Spirit. Inevitably, pastors have a public life and a private life. Most of us would agree that what people see in us in the pulpit is only the tip of the iceberg as to what we really are.

How Do We Grieve the Holy Spirit?
The main ways are by hidden (or not-so-hidden) anger, bitterness and unforgiveness in our lives. As soon as Paul told the church of Ephesus, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit," he added, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Eph. 4:30-32, NIV).
I regard bitterness as the major sin of the church today. In fact, bitterness climbs to the top of the heap (rivaling pornography) as the chief sin among pastors. When we approach the Bible for sermon preparation but are filled with a grudge toward anyone—regardless of how unjust they were—we hinder and block the Holy Spirit from being Himself in our preparation. Thus, we fail to grasp what the Holy Spirit would otherwise show us.
I can safely guarantee that if you completely forgive every single person in your life—whether it be your spouse, relative, church member or another—your heart will change. Your life will change. The Bible will open up. And your preparation and preaching will never be the same again.

R.T. KENDALL was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of more than 55 books, including Totally Forgiving God (Charisma House), which releases in July. "Most of us would agree that what people see in us in the pulpit is only the tip of the iceberg as to what we really are."

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Lyndon Johnson

    63-Year-Old Law Still 'Threatens' Churches, Pastors

    Read why this law is so dangerous to the kingdom culture.

  • Churches with less than 100 members possess a sense of potential that is alluring.

    The Great Value of Churches With Under 100 Members

    God can and does use small churches in significant ways to advance His Kingdom.

  • Explorers require significant input.

    How to Receive Clarity When Torn Between Choices

    Decision making is risky without guidance from the Holy Spirit.

  • A dark cloud hangs over the 61 "deplorables" in Congress.

    Inauguration Day and the True Deplorables in Congress

    "To opt out of participation in this festival of the democratic process is to say publicly that ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • The future of your ministry could depend on how you answer these questions.

    5 Questions You Will Answer in 2017

    The future of your life, ministry and church will be determined by the way you address these.

  • A new path is opening now.

    Prophecy: The Lord Is Opening Doors for Kingdom-Minded Businesses

    Find out how to activate this prophetic word of increase in your company.

  • Local congregations are called to become Christ-like in their methodology, mission and essence.

    10 Traits of the Jesus-Driven Church

    If we attempt to walk in these, we will leave a powerful imprint on the world around us.

  • Do you have the proper training to be a soldier in God's army?

    The Training You Need as a Soldier in God's Army

    We are in already in a war. Let us enter the fight as fully trained soldiers with the full armor ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders