WEAKNESS IN PREACHING

Jun 26
by Wesley C. Parker
WEAKNESS IN PREACHING

 

What would you say if someone told you it was God’s desire that you grow weaker in your preaching? Not poorer, less passionate, or careless; just weaker.  How would you respond?

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   I haven’t always even wanted to be a preacher, but since I’ve become one, I know I’ve consumed a great deal of preaching from others - online and in person - seeking to learn and hone my own skills.  If you do this yourself, almost invariably, you’ll find a set of preachers who you find to be especially powerful in their preaching – the Chandlers, the Kellers, the Funks, Milnes and Priebes of the world – and then you try glean everything you can in order to - one day - attain to that level of power in your own preaching. 

A clarified calling

   As we’ve been preaching through the book of Acts in the church where I serve as pastor, however, I’ve recently become convinced that – while God absolutely honors the pursuit of careful preparation, exegesis, and skillful delivery in preaching – His desire is also that we might become weaker in our preaching.  Here's what I mean:

   In one of the more commonly quoted verses in the book of Acts – Acts 1:8 – Luke records the words of Jesus in His final address to the His disciples before His ascension.   And He says these words:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you …” 

And for many of us, we stop reading there and say, “Yes Lord!  That’s exactly the power I’m hoping to get from you as I seek to preach Your word to all who will listen.  Give me that incredible, Marvel-comics-esque super power so that people can hear and their lives can be changed."

   And yet, clearly, as you keep reading you see that the only "power" that Jesus intends any of us to receive when the Spirit comes is this:

And you will be My witnesses.”

   And, if you’re like me at all, you read that and think, “... wait, what?!  That’s it? Just Your 'witnesses' Jesus? That doesn’t sound like it makes me powerful at all!”  And Jesus' patient, loving reply each time we come to Him like that is, “Yeah, I know!  I know it doesn’t make you powerful; I never intended to do that.  No, the way I empower you to accomplish the mission I’ve given you, is simply to empower you to be my witnesses.”

   What does a witness do? They give testimony to what they have seen, heard, experienced.  So how does that make me powerful? Again, it doesn’t!  But what it does do is allow people to see, hear and experience the amazing things God accomplishes through us in our weakness, so that people are never drawn to seek us and our power, but to seek Jesus and His power; the only source of life and salvation that there is.

Paul's struggle with weakness

   Maybe you know, in 2 Cor. 12 the apostle Paul has a similar argument with Jesus; three arguments actually, where He pleads with God to take away his thorn in the flesh. Now, no one knows for sure what that thorn was; I think there’s good evidence to say that his thorn was poor eyesight; that his eyes were never fully healed after he was blinded by Jesus on the road to Damascus where he was converted to faith. 

   And I think one reason Paul pleaded so earnestly with Jesus to take away this poor eyesight is b/c – as someone who was used to being at the top; being formerly one of the religious leaders who passionately, eloquently pursed these followers of “the Way” and sought to wipe them out – Paul felt his poor eyesight made him look incredibly weak to the people he was now trying to preach to.  And I can imagine in some of those arguments with Jesus, Paul being like:

   “Jesus, do you know how anti-climactic it is when I’m at the crescendo of my preaching to the gentiles/religious leaders, and then I have to stop and get out my reading glasses in order to see the text I’m referring to in the scroll?!  It totally makes me look weak/foolish/easy to dismiss!  It takes away all my power in my preaching!” 

   And once again, Jesus loving and patient reply is, “I know!  I know it does Paul.  And that’s actually why I’m not taking that thorn away from you Paul.”  Jesus response in 2 Cor. 12:9 is simply this, “My grace is sufficient for you, [why?] for My power is made perfect/shines most brightly in weakness.”

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   And in the end as preachers and teachers of the word of God, that’s ultimately the big question we truly need be able to answer for ourselves, viz. Whose power are we truly seeking to demonstrate?  If it’s our own power/strength, we may gain a following, but we’ll never see true life change taking place and God’s Kingdom truly grown.  However, if the only power we seek to demonstrate is the power of the Holy Spirit - He who empowers our witness and points people inexhaustibly to Jesus – then our preaching will undoubtedly become an unstoppable force of strength and power; not because we're so powerful but because the Holy Spirit is.

 

   If you are truly satisfied to have people follow Jesus and not you, then grow weaker in your preaching. Likely nothing in your prep, formation, or delivery of your sermon will change. But when you seek to be nothing more than a witness for Jesus - testifying only to what you have seen and heard in His word – you will see His true power through your preaching finally poured out in the same way we see demonstrated in Peter at Pentecost.

"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

 

 

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