A few years ago, I read a book entitled, “The Holy Spirit and Preaching” by the world-renowned Rev. Dr. James Forbes. This is an invaluable resource for preachers and even those who are not necessarily called to preach but are interested in understanding the process from the perspective of a well-respected clergyman. The book is all about how the Holy Spirit breathes life into our preaching and how to be open to the Spirit in order to ensure the purpose of the message is effectively relayed and received. Unlike the sermonic moments I engaged with at the Bowery and other homiletic engagements similar to it, when it comes to what we recognize as preaching during traditional church worship services, I have to unfortunately admit that I have “quenched the Spirit!” For that I must ask The Lord for forgiveness. I trusted the prepared manuscript over what the power of the Holy Spirit was able to do with my sermon and preaching effectiveness. In addition, this was in contradiction with how I approached prayer (private and public) and literally every other ministry and worship function there is. I listen for, am influenced by, and trust the Holy Spirit in all of these functions without a fixed and immovable script because I understand that there is no other way. And please don’t misunderstand me. In times before, I have certainly responded to the yearning of the Spirit in my preaching, and the results of that have changed what I prepared or enhanced it in a way it couldn’t have been without. Ultimately, however, I have not fully given myself over and trusted the Holy Spirit (over the Holy Spirit prepared manuscript) in the actual delivery of my sermon.
I have been operating, unconsciously, in a way that would support the notion that The Lord’s work was done during the preparation process and before the sermonic moment. As that preaching mentor also told me, “The sermon is never complete until it has been preached.” My ego is not too large to the point where I can’t recognize my inadvertent misinterpretation of those wise words. The sermon, even if it is being preached in the moment, is still not “over” until, in the tradition I’m most familiar, the invitational. That means that at any moment revelation could come and a preacher must respond with the proverbial declaration, “Thus says The Lord!”
The truth of the matter is that our preaching is not the true power. The true power is still in the word of God (scriptures) and the move of the Holy Spirit. It goes without saying that our preaching doesn’t work without the scriptures, but it certainly doesn’t have authority either if the Holy Spirit of Christ is not present. That is what the Gospels attest to when Jesus was constantly referred to as one that spoke or taught “as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22, NIV).
Please, don’t get me wrong. I will still be writing full manuscripts, but I will also trust more in the Spirit, who may even lead me from time to time to completely abandon a manuscript in the middle of preaching because the people of God are in need of something else. After all, I am merely the vessel. GOD is the ultimate authority. And I trust that with full manuscript or not, there will be a word from The Lord that I am able to bring forth so that transformation takes place, deliverance and breakthrough are realized, lives are changed, people are saved, The Lord’s truth is revealed, and ultimately God’s will is done!
Associate Pastor of Youth & Young Adults