Preaching and Changing Lives for Jesus through the Spirit

Blog Post | Preaching is more than reciting a scripted sermon. It should be birthed by prayer and demonstrate the Kingdom of God with a targeted goal.

Prayer, Unction, and the Holy Spirit

The great preachers of old often wrote about their vibrant prayer life that led to passionate and effective preaching. This prayer life led to an unction, an overwhelming desire to teach and demonstrate the Gospel in order to draw others to life with God.

You simply cannot read the writings of these great men of God without running across similar themes:

“The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people. Oh! The horror of it. There is a strange thing that I have seen under the sun, even in the fundamentalist circles; it is preaching without unction. What is unction? I hardly know. But I know what it is not (or at least I know when it is not upon my own soul.)… Brethren, we could well manage to be half as intellectual (of the modern pseudo kind) if we were twice as spiritual. Preaching is a spiritual business. A sermon born in the head reaches the head; a sermon born in the heart reaches the heart. Under God, a spiritual preacher will produce spiritually minded people…Unction is God’s knighthood for the soldier-preacher who has wrestled in prayer and gained the victory. Victory is not won in the pulpit by firing intellectual battles or wisecracks, but in the prayer closet; it is won or lost before the preacher’s foot enters the pulpit. Unction is like dynamite.”
 — Leonard Ravenhill
“This unction comes to the preacher not in the study but in the closet. It is heaven’s distillation in answer to prayer… This unction is not the gift of genius. It is not found in the halls of learning. No eloquence can woo it. No industry can win it.
 — E.M. Bounds
“Unction is a thing which you cannot manufacture, and its counterfeits are worse than worthless; yet it is in itself priceless, and beyond measure needful if you would edify believers and bring sinners to Jesus.”
 — Charles Spurgeon

This is merely a sample. Others can be found all the way through to modern men and women who dedicate their lives to preaching God’s Gospel (though it is certainly not limited to professionals and those who are able to do this in a full time manner).

Demonstrate

Here we must remember that we cannot simply preach text without Christ and we cannot simply preach Christ without text, nor should either be done without demonstration. The apostles taught and demonstrated. They spoke and laid hands on people. The quoted God’s Word and healed the hurting.

“This is how to deliver not just an informative lecture but a life-changing sermon. It is not merely to talk about Christ but to show him, to ‘demonstrate’ his greatness and to reveal him as worthy of praise and adoration. If we do that, the Spirit will help us, because that is his great mission in the world.”
 — Timothy Keller
3 And aI was with you bin weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men3 but din the power of God.
 — 1 Corinthians 2:3–5

God should be praised and honored in a sermon, not just talked about. Intellect and emotion should converge, leading people to a passionate, wise Savior.

Know the Goal

Though the goal may change depending on the nature of the church or congregation (some may focus on discipleship and sanctification where others may be more missional or evangelist), the point here is to remember that a sermon must have a goal!

The following is a quote from a discussion between Charles Spurgeon and a student in his Pastor’s College:

When T. D. Medhurst was a young preacher, “in the earliest days of [Spurgeon’s] Pastor’s college,” Medhurst complained to Charles H. Spurgeon that he knew of no one who got saved in three months of preaching on the streets of London. Spurgeon asked, “Do you expect the Lord to save souls every time you open your mouth?” Embarrassed, Medhurst replied, “Oh, no, sir!” Spurgeon then answered, “Then that is just the reason why you have not had conversions: ‘According to your faith be it unto you’ ”.
 — Hall, I. R. (Introduction to Homiletics : An independent-study textbook)

Whether we seek conversion of the lost or edification of believers, a sermon should clearly have a goal and be prepared and delivered accordingly.

A sermon should be intended to do something or it is not worthy of the name. It should not be like a firework set off to make a noise or to produce a brilliant display of light, color, and smoke. It should be like a gun aimed and fired at a definite target. Aim at nothing and you are sure to hit it. Even evangelistic sermons can be like shots in the dark, achieving results more by chance than choice.
 — Hall, I. R. (Introduction to Homiletics : An independent-study textbook)

Resources and Thoughts

With the above in mind, what are some of your favorite preaching resources (preachers, articles, books)?

My current favorite is Matt Chandler from The Village Church.


Originally published at heinspiredme.com.