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Spirit-Backed Preaching with Freedom and Authenticity

For various reasons, I have been brought these days to read more on the church and on preaching in particular. If there is one firm conviction I have about ministry, if I know anything at all, it is this: the Word of God is true, is the authority, is the power to change, and preaching it in the power of God's Spirit is the essence of ministry. On my blog's "about me" page, I say it this way: I believe that Spirit-backed expository preaching of God's word is the heart of the Christian ministry.

This conviction has not changed. It is the bedrock of all I hope to accomplish in the church. In my entire preaching ministry, I want everything to rest on clear teaching of Scripture, so that God's Spirit will work in the hearts of those who hear. To use a picture from Jim Shaddix, I want to be a turtle on a fence. "When people see a turtle on the fence, they begin to focus on the one who put him there" (The Passsion Driven Sermon, p. 46).

Yet, I am learning afresh the importance of the "Spirit-backed" part of the definition. It is not so as raw truth delivered to people, but processed truth fed to people. It is not enough to simply say, "God's word is the power, and God's Spirit works through it, so here, take it!" There was something I was missing. There was a formality to it, a detachment of myself. Reading commentaries the wrong way can tend to make one feel as a third-party investigator, dealing with textual issues with no real involvement personally. This kills preaching.

One of the biggest things that I have learned from Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Preaching and Preachers, is the essential importance of freedom in preaching. 

I attach very great importance to this [the element of freedom]. . . . This is a crucial point; this is of the very essence of this act of preaching. (p. 83)

The preacher is not meant to be a mere channel through which water flows; he is to be more like a well. . . . Do not just repeat it as you have received it; deliver it in your own way, let it emerge as a part of yourself, with your stamp upon it. (p. 181)

The great thing is freedom. I cannot over-emphasise this. It is of the very essence of the act of praching--this freedom in your own mind and spirit, this being free to the influences of the Spirit upon you. (p. 229)

He emphasizes again and again that there must be a freedom to preaching. Form is important, but it is merely a servant to the substance. This means that it must be me speaking. Not just saying something, but having something to say!

All of this is to say, preaching becomes "Spirit-backed" preaching not by being a running commentary delivering biblical facts and truths, but when these truths have so impacted the preacher that he is less of a channel and more of a well. Shaddix says, "the wedding of God's Word and God's preacher takes place in two secluded places--the study and the prayer closet" (p. 151). For there to be powerful effect, powerful work of the Spirit, there must first be a wedding of preacher and truth.

Byron Yawn, in Well-Driven Nails, has driven these same truths home as well. He singles out three things that make up good preaching: clarity, simplicity, and passion. These he all frames in the discussion of "the power of finding your own voice", i.e. freedom and power in preaching. His book was challenging, encouraging, exciting (won't make you yawn!), and confirming for me.

Going back to the start, in Jonathan Leeman's words, "God's Word, working through God's Spirit, is God's primary instrument for growing God's church" (Reverberation, 19). I believe this is true today more than ever.  

Yet, I am learning afresh that the part that says, "working through God's Spirit," means not simply that truth is communicated by me, but that it is done so through me. I cannot remain detached. God wants me to be a well, not a mere channel. God's Spirit is pleased to work in power as truth is communicated (accurately!) with freedom and authenticity (i.e. passion). 

May God do this for the good of his church and the glory of his Name!


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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)

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