Thursday, February 10, 2011

Preaching as Writing and Speaking

My mentor, the late and much lamented Dr. Howard Giddens, liked to say “The Holy Spirit can speak to the preacher in the study as well as in the pulpit.”

I have taken that observation to heart in my preaching career; I work on the text and the text works on me and as the text and I fight it out I truly believe that the Holy Spirit is right in there with us, sometimes refereeing and sometimes inciting.

99% of the time I end up sometime before Sunday with a sermon manuscript that contains words that I, in concert with the text and with the Holy Spirit, have labored and even agonized over in my desire to get them as right as I can and, if I do say so myself, what I produce is often a pretty good read.

I don’t know that it’s always such a good preach.

I don’t preach the manuscript, by which I mean that I don’t read it to the congregation. Oh, there will be places in the sermon where I stick real close to what I have written because there is something that I want to get just right or to be careful about how I say it, but I will, in the heat of the moment and, I hope, under the influence of the Spirit, say things that I didn’t write and that I didn’t intend to say.

It’s interesting to me how often the things I didn’t write but did speak are the things that people remember and the things to which they offer response.

Dr. Giddens was right: the Spirit speaks just as surely in the study as in the pulpit.

The opposite is also true.

And in both places the Spirit keeps things interesting—and dangerous…

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