Monday, September 29, 2014

The Three Essential Elements for Powerful Persuasive Preaching

Preaching is both a human task and a Divine event, a combination of man and God delivering the message of God. As preachers we are both blessed and burdened in our preaching.  We are blessed with the opportunity and the privilege and burdened with the responsibility and accountability, of speaking forth the oracles of God.  Those truly called to preach have been gifted so as to be the mouthpiece of God, so that when we speak for God it should be as God Himself would speak.  As such, preaching has been depicted as God speaking through the personality of men.

In this vein we must realize that there are certain keys, certain requirements, certain foundational principles required on the preacher's part so that the Spirit of God can and will attend and give unction to his message.  It is not erudition, articulation, or winsomeness, although those are certainly helpful.  It is good to be learned, it is good to be a wordsmith, and certainly an attractive personality and engaging presentation will help; but all of these can be present and, yet, the sermon can be devoid of power and spiritually impotent.

What then are the keys to powerful, persuasive preaching?  What is required of those who would stand in the pulpit and herald forth the word of God. What must we as preachers do in order for our sermons to be attended by the Holy Spirit and for us to preach in His power.  I believe there are three keys, three foundational elements, that are required of the preacher for his preaching to be spiritually powerful and effective.  In listening to and experiencing sermons I have seen these essential elements to be present in the preacher whose sermons have been marked by the attending power of the Holy Spirit; and all of the great preachers in the church have possessed and exhibited these elements in their preaching. They are:

1. A thorough conviction of the truth.
This is ground zero for all who would be powerful in the pulpit and is the primary essential element and the guiding principle for all who would have their preaching attended by the Holy Spirit. The preacher who would be powerful in the pulpit will always believe that the word of God is true, absolutely true; not just true as regards the things of salvation, not just true in the matters of faith and practice, but true in every area to which it speaks, whether it is creation, revelation, miracles, history, or prophecy. He does not look for holes in the Scriptures, but has a steadfast hold on the veracity of the Scriptures and believes that they are truth without any mixture of error. He then preaches as presenting the truth, with the conviction that what he is saying is true, and therefore his preaching will be attended by the Spirit of truth.  This gives the message authority.

2. A thorough knowledge of the truth.
Shallow knowledge begets shallow sermons, and shallow sermons are never powerful sermons. There is a saying that knowledge is power, and the powerful preacher will have a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, not just in a pet area, but in the full flow of the grand narrative of the Bible. He will understand where the passage he is preaching on falls in the scope of the Bible, he will understand its context, its historical surroundings, its audience.  The preacher will have a knowledge of the subject he is preaching on, and what the Bible, as a whole, has to say about the subject. This lends weight to his sermon, this gives breadth and depth to his sermon, and thereby gives his preaching the appropriate gravitas. Alongside this the Holy Spirit of God also gives the preacher wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This makes the preacher believable.

3. A thorough explanation of the truth.
Just as thorough knowledge makes the preacher believable, thorough explanation makes the preacher understandable. What makes the sermon finally and ultimately powerful is the explanation and application of the truth. A correct and thorough explanation of the truth is a prerequisite to the Holy Spirit applying the truth to the hearts of the hearers. People cannot apply what they do not know or understand.  The truth must be presented clearly and precisely.  The meanings of words, their tenses and contexts, and what other verses say about the same subject give light to the mind in understanding the meaning of the passage. Once a passage is understood the Holy Spirit will apply it to each person's heart within the context of their own walk and experience.  This makes the sermon personal, this makes it powerful, this makes it effective.

As preachers we must preach to the heart through the mind in order to bend the will.  In order for this to take place we must be convinced that what we are preaching is true, we must know our subject, and we must be able to explain so as to bring clarity and insight into the mind of the hearer.  When this is done, the Holy Spirit will attend our sermon and give it all the spiritual power necessary to accomplish its aim.

I hope these essential elements are present in your preaching.  They are attainable for us all, from the least gifted of us to the most gifted, from the least eloquent to the most eloquent, from the least winsome to the most winsome. Possessing these foundational and essential elements in our preaching does not guarantee us large crowds or growing churches or notoriety or a place on the conference circuit, but they do guarantee us that our sermons will be spiritually powerful and effective in the sphere in which our Lord and Master has placed us.  This will lead to His approbation, "Well done, My good and faithful slave, enter into the joy of your Master."

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