Introduction: I have been thinking quite a lot about the importance of the sermon in our worship services. Very often we divorce the words, worship and sermon, the sermon follows the worship, it is almost as if the sermon has become an add on, after all worship is most important isn’t it? This surely is a wrong way to look at it after all if preaching is the declaration of the word of the living God should we not be listening to what the Spirit has to say to the church with a worshipping heart? In this post I want to briefly look at the work of the Holy Spirit first of all in the preacher and then in the hearer. We have reduced the sermon to either teaching (which is vital) or to just a blessed thought, I believe with all my heart that the preached word is vital to the life of the Church, and I hope to explain why in the following lines.
The Preacher:The preacher needs to be aware that the role model he/She should be following is that of Jesus himself, too often preaching is turned into styles of preaching rather than looking to see what Jesus did. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry and so should the modern preacher, the ministry of the word is so much more than a teaching session. The first question in a preachers mind when he comes to prepare a sermon or a series of sermons is what does God want to say through me? I believe that if we asked this question more often we would not be debating whether topical sermons, are better than expository sermons because these are not the central question. The important thing is to hear from god what he wants. I believe we can get caught up in a method of preaching that detracts from the central purpose of preaching, and that is to feed the flock of God with the food that the Lord sees is best for them. The way Jesus started his ministry demonstrates what should be at the centre of the preachers life, Jesus said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaimgood news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Lk 4:18–19).
We are called to follow in the steps of our Lord,if we have been called to preach then we have been called to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit. We do not have many long accounts of Jesus’s sermons, but we do know that he proclaimed the kingdom of God wherever he was. So often we loose sight of this important fact and we get bogged down in discussions of what is relevant, we need to see that the most relevant thing for the Church to hear is the whole counsel of God proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Look sometime at the charge Paul gave to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Our culture should not determine what is relevant to the church, but rather our relationship and dependence upon God the Holy Spirit should determine what is relevant. The preacher is meant to be a captive of god and his word not the culture of his day. I feel that if we do not seek the Lord for his guidance we are in danger of either going down the road of entertainment or of making our sermons more like lectures. I believe that the exposition of God’s word is of great importance but in doing this we should follow the Lord’s leading and not slavishly follow the example of a famous preacher. At one church I preached through the book of Matthew for two years because I was convinced that was what the Lord wanted me to do. What became very clear as I did this was that the Lord knew the future and each sermon fitted the needs of that time, I was amazed at what happened. But this does not mean that we always have to be preaching long series,sometimes we are called to tackle just one thing at a time, at another time we are called to preach on various topics, the key to powerful preaching is the presence of the Holy Spirit, that is why the preacher listens to God and then proclaims what he has heard.
The congregation: For those of us who hear we must not think that because the band has stopped playing that worship has finished rather it has lead us to the place where we should be hungry to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say to the Church. We need to cultivate a real hunger for the word of the living God. Our God wants to speak to us, and one of the ways he has ordained for that to take place is as his word is preached When we come with an openness of heart to receive what God has to give to us we will grow in our faith. We also need to be discerning listeners, we need to judge everything by the word of the living God, the Bible not by the latest fads. We need to be open not only to be encouraged but to receive conviction of sin and directions as to how to live. The Lord often guides through the preached word. This means that we need to come prayerfully to the service asking what will the Lord say to me today through the sermon? It is my conviction that preaching is a gift to the church and therefore everytime the word is preached in the power of the Holy spirit it is Charismatic event. Let us prize all the gifts of the Spirit and let us not label any of them as being boring.
Conclusion: The presence of the Holy Spirit is vital both for the preacher and the hearer if the sermon is to accomplish what God wants it to. We often talk about being open to the Holy Spirit, does that include being open to him in the sermon?