Part 6: Preaching the Sermon
I do not preach extemporaneously “without notes.” Instead I take the notes with me, but I do not read them (unless when citing a lengthy quote, which is rare). One of the worse things that a preacher can do in his delivery is to read, or even sound like one is reading his notes. I especially want to maintain eye contact during the introduction, therefore I have to know exactly what I’m going to say when I begin. There is a balance between not reading and yet knowing exactly what to say to introduce the sermon. I believe that rambling introductions are a curse! Get to the point as quickly as possible!
I strongly believe in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in preaching. After all my studying is complete and the manuscript is written, there still remains a desperate need for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can cause the message to go forth in power and accomplish its God intended purpose. I pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit each time I preach. The more aware I am of my need for this work of the Spirit, the more powerful my preaching seems to be. If I go in my own strength, trusting in my preparation and not the empowerment, illumination, and convicting power of the Holy Spirit, I will crash and burn. Sometimes God graciously allows me to crash and burn when I go in my own strength in order to increase my dependence upon Him. On the other hand, some of my best moments preaching have been when I have been weak in body and therefore utterly dependent upon the aid of the Holy Spirit. God always seems to bless when I acknowledge my weakness before Him.
Because the act of preaching is one in which the Holy Spirit is at work, I never know for sure exactly how the sermon will go. I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in my preparation, as well as in my preaching, but sometimes I say things that I did not plan to say and omit things which I had planned to say. This is the freedom in preaching that comes as the result of preparation, not as many believe, in spite of preparation. My observation is that the more one prepares, the more variety there will be in ones preaching because the Spirit has more material from which to choose from the preacher’s mind. Those who do not prepare well to insure their spontaneity or “being led by the Spirit” usually end up saying the exact same things in the exact same ways. I wouldn’t want to blame the messages that result from being ill-prepared on the Holy Spirit!
At the end of the sermon, I am a failure. Preaching, if done in the right attitude, is a very humbling activity. There is really no way to measure the success immediately (although many try through manipulative “altar calls”). This is sometimes frustrating. Only a firm belief that God will use His Word to convert the lost, convict the sinner, equip and encourage the saints allows me to continue each week preaching the Word with relatively little visible results. Another humbling aspect of preaching is the immense majesty of the Word which we are called to proclaim. The richness of God’s Word insures that all preachers will always fail to mine the depths of a particular passage. As I drive home from church on Sunday, I am keenly aware that I have failed to exhaust the depths of the passage. There was more that could have been said, and what was said could have been said better. But at the end of the day I must realize that God has chosen me as a weak vessel to manifest His own surpassing glory so that God alone receives the glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!