Preaching is scary business. Not the getting up in front of people part. I got over my fear of public speaking a long time ago. Plus, I have a high tolerance for making a public fool of myself, so I don’t get too worried about falling off the stage or accidentally tripping over something.
If all I were doing was public speaking I wouldn’t be nervous at all. I’m a decent public speaker. I mean, I’m no Martin Luther King Jr., but I think I’m tolerable (I do have a dream, but it involves wearing sweatpants for an entire weekend). People tell me that I’m a good public speaker. But there is a huge difference between preaching and public speaking. A person can be a good public speaker who is engaging, humorous, powerful, and insightful, and yet still be ineffective as a preacher.
In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul wasn’t a fancy pants preacher. He didn’t dazzle and shimmer with brilliant words and humorous illustrations. He didn’t have a big screen behind him, projecting him in larger than life, 3D fashion. He says that he came in weakness and fear, with much trembling. That doesn’t sound very impressive. That doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you want leading an evangelistic rally. It sounds more like the kind of guy who would work in a cubicle and play World of Warcraft every night.
And yet Paul’s preaching was incredibly effective. The Corinthians heard the word of God and were saved. Why? Because Paul’s preaching was accompanied by a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. In other words, the Holy Spirit took Paul’s “weak” words and caused them to detonate in the hearts of the Corinthians. Without the Spirit, Paul’s preaching was nothing more than weak, unimpressive words. But the Spirit made Paul’s words powerful – so powerful that the Corinthians believed in Christ and were saved.
So when your pastor steps into the pulpit, pray that his words would be accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you want your life to be changed by the sermon? Then pray desperately for your pastor. Pray that the Spirit would take his weak, feeble words, and transform them into a fiery spiritual weapon. Pray that your pastor’s words would pierce hearts and transform lives.
If your pastor has the “perfect” sermon, with the smoothest transitions, the most descriptive illustrations, and the best Bible explanation, yet doesn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit, he’s got nothing. His sermon won’t do anything.
When your pastors step up to the pulpit this weekend, pray for him to have power.