Power Over Pretense

Tired of being a pulpit performer? Consider these preaching basics

The rapid cultural shifts of our time have caused the preaching phenomenon to become a competitive element based on human innovation. Today’s preachers compete every weekend with the likes of American Idol, YouTube, Facebook or the latest big-screen release. To vie for the average churchgoer’s attention, we rely on everything from stage props to movie clips to powerful illustrations.

Though there’s nothing wrong with sermon helps to communicate the truth more powerfully, problems occur when the sage onstage trades the biblical importance and impact of a well-versed sermon for personal influence. Age-old truths can become secondary to motivational political agendas and quick-growth schemes masked as moves of God. The result is weak parishioners drifting from one theatrical show to another and a cycle of orators looking for the next best gimmick to move the crowd. There has to be more to preaching than this.

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Paul understood preaching to be a platform communicating good news and demonstrating the power of God—saving the lost. Romans 10:14 identifies a preacher as the voice or messenger of God to a rebellious people. If God is depending on preachers to communicate His word to reprobates as well as to disciple believers, powerful preaching will hit the target.

So how do we move from puppeteers to powerful preachers reaching the multitudes with truth? To keep from missing the target here are three steps to apply in your own life.

1. Preparation. Paul admonished Timothy “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NASB). Like young Timothy, our challenge is to become seasoned preachers communicating truth and hope amid despair. Message preparation involves more than simply browsing a catalog of ideas or flippantly selecting the next catchy verse. Charles Spurgeon explained the preaching mandate in this way: “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” If we’re prepared, our preaching will bring us all closer to the cross. This call requires that we spend time in devotion and meditation allowing the Word to permeate our thinking and living. How else can we bring others along the journey unless we have walked it ourselves?

2. Purity. “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). The spirit of compromise has found a home in pulpits and pews. Parishioners have learned the skill of hypocrisy from colorful leaders unaware of or unconcerned by their own condition. For those desiring to empower believers, purity must become primary. Pure living fuels pulpit power, just as unholy living creates dissonance. Perhaps this is why Jesus admonished us to deny our flesh, take up our crosses and follow Him. When we pursue Christ, His power breaks the yokes of bondage and sin.

3. Prayer. “The preacher must pray,” said revivalist Leonard Ravenhill. “It is not that he can pray or that he could pray, but that he must pray if he intends to have a spiritual church. There is no other way to power but by prayer.” Prayer moves God and God moves people. Where genuine revival is present in our day, prayer is the foundation. If this is true, how can we move from prayerlessness to prayerfulness bringing revival?

First, understand the importance of prayer as noted in James 5:16. Second, pray with confidence as Daniel did in Daniel 6:20. Private prayer empowers public petitions. Third, model a life of prayer and others will follow. In the words of A.W. Tozer, “As a man prays so is he.”

William Lamb is the director of field experiences at Lee University’s Leonard Center in Cleveland, Tenn.

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