A couple of weeks ago, we visited the aspect of the responsibilities of those who are listening to preaching and how important it is to literally hear what is being preached. What is being preached is a back and forth between the pulpit and the congregation, it is to be a living moment of worship. However, I think it is absolutely of crucial importance that those who do preach constantly work toward improving both the mechanics of preaching—the wording, the presentation, and so forth—and the spiritual aspect of preaching—private prayer, personal holiness, and inner hunger for God and the Word.
I have a responsibility to do everything in my power to make preaching/teaching effective. Sometimes the content of the message can be very heavy and convicting. It is imperative that the heart of the preacher be clear and free of the prejudices, offenses of life, and pressure of the times so he does not soil what God is intending to get across to the church. This huge burden of personal holiness, prayer, and purity can be weighty but embracing these qualities only makes the message that much more powerful and provoking.
As far as the mechanics of preaching, as technology has advanced, there are massive resources that are available to the man who is diligent in looking for them. MP3 sermons, homiletic seminars, and a host of academic resources are available to us. Despite the newer inventions of the Nook, the Kindle, and now the IPad, it is still very hard to beat a book! Preachers should read much because doing so increases our range to draw from in messages that will help. However, for those who are readers, one category that often slips under the radar and is sorely neglected as those writings that are literally on preaching.
I recommend to you a book written by Jim Shaddix entitled The Passion Driven Sermon—Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen. There is an urge for men not to be pulpiteers but rather to take the Word and use it in a very powerful way that causes a confidence to rise in the Word of God and not the man who is preaching. We all have our heroes but when their personality overshadows the power of the Word—biblical preaching suffers. In fact, I am no longer sure it falls in the category of true biblical preaching when the overriding personality of the preacher supersedes what is being preached.
Shaddix tells a story in the opening chapter about a little country church that he served in as an assistant. He remembered a brewing bitterness in the soul of the pastor who felt like that this church was far beneath his abilities. One Sunday, he allowed the bitterness to overtake him and the frustrations and aggravations of congregational life had so sapped him that he got up in the pulpit on that Sunday and said, “I don’t have a Word from the Lord this week so we shall dismiss and go home.” Shaddix admits his own youthful immaturity but he writes that he was appalled at this man’s admission. Shaddix thought to himself that here in his hands was a Bible that was loaded with passages and that somewhere in that vast storehouse, there was something to render effectively to this group of worshipers. He said that on that day he made a commitment to always have a familiarity with Scripture so that he would have something to preach.
While this may seem far-fetched, I am certain that most preachers at some point will have the same feelings concerning preaching to a bickering, unwieldy, and discouraged flock. You would really rather choose to send the folks home instead of wading through the dilemma of preaching. However, you will soon learn that more often than not, the longer you are in the ministry, the more you work out of the responsibility of your calling than the inspiration of your calling.
Shaddix comes from three angles with his encouragement to preach. Passion-Driven Scripturology which is a passionate hunger for the study of the Word. Passion-Driven Shepherdology which is ministry that works toward the church and not toward entertainment and man-centered worship. A lot of preaching in our generation at large is good stuff. The greater question: Is it God-stuff??? There is a big difference between good stuff and God stuff! Passion-Driven Sermonology focuses in on the delivery of the message that one is to preach. How serious a man is about Scripture and how serious he is about the church makes the delivery of the message!
This book is a strong encouragement to get away from so much “life-application” sermons that give ten steps to a better marriage or fifty-five ways to improve your self-esteem. All of these kinds of messages have a bent toward humanistic pragmatism that leaves the glory of God in the proverbial dust. Life application messages may be relevant but there are a lot of motivational speakers who are relevant too. Why lower the Word into the mud of human effort when we can exalt God with Word-driven preaching?
The Bible is filled with incredible things to preach to churches we just have to make a concentrated effort to mine those treasures out. This book will be a motivational tool that you might need to jump-start your inspiration for preaching. Let me remind you of Thomas Manton who preached 65 sermons from Hebrews 11 and from Psalm 119 pulled one-hundred and ninety-one sermons from that acre of diamonds!