Real preaching is not an art, nor is it a form of entertainment. Real preaching is what happens as a result of men and women who have shut themselves in with God. It is the result of having been touched by God, and it is the result of hearing Gods voice. It is this shut-in experience with God that the real preacher carries to the pulpit; and when he or she speaks, people take notice that they have been with Jesus. There is simply not enough amens, hallelujahs, praise the Lords, or impressive verbiage that we could add to our sermons to make up for our lack of being touched by God. No amount of feet stomping, flailing of the arms, or raising of our voices will do. Only the one who has just come down from the mountain of God and who's face radiates with His glory is adequately prepared to preach. If we think this is too high of a price to pay for real preaching, then let us take up our occupation elsewhere. The apostles had it right when they commissioned the early church to "seek out seven men full of the Holy Ghost," so that they could give themselves to prayer and the study of the word. Preachers, what are we giving the majority of our time over to? Do we really think that we can have apostolic successes without apostolic practices? Too often, we have desired apostolic ministries, but where oh where is the apostolic prayer and devotion to the word that is supposed to accompany it? We must stop taking shortcuts.
Do you remember the times when you would tremble at the thought of approaching the pulpit without the anointing, without having spent time in prayer, or without having direction from the Lord? Where has our fear gone? We are way too comfortable these days relying on talent, skill, or past encounters with God to get us through. The man or woman who can approach the pulpit without ever having shut themselves in with God should be very afraid. It is both arrogant and dangerous to do so. It is arrogant because it smacks with the pride of the Laodiceans who thought they had need of nothing including God. It is dangerous because the precious souls of men and women are under the sphere of our influence every week, and the rescuing of these souls will greatly depend on an anointed minister who has heard from God. How tragic it is that souls can come and go from the Lords house every week unmoved and unchanged because there is no word from the Lord. Often, all that we have to offer folks is an intellectual knowledge of God that is void of reality. Its not that we are necessarily preaching things that are unbiblical, but it could simply mean that we are not preaching a message that is relevant for the immediate needs. Only the Holy Spirit can enable a minister to preach such a timely message. This is why an effective sermon must be born out ones real life aloneness with God. It will be in those moments that God will speak to us, and the message that He gives will always be relevant.
It has become very easy to get a sermon for Sunday these days. It is very easy to flip through a sermon book, or surf the internet for all the greatest sermon sites. It is even very common for ministers to swap sermon outlines with one another. As ministers, we are being offered shortcuts for everything: shortcuts for conversion- just tell people to believe but don't require repentance or discipleship. We are offered shortcuts for church growth- do anything but disciple your people to be a witness. We are offered shortcuts to the anointing- it is called talent, charisma, or even education. We are even being offered shortcuts to revival although every major revival in history began as a result of intercessory prayer and repentance, many say it is no longer necessary to do these things anymore. All one needs are some good singers, talented musicians, and a high powered evangelist to come prophecy over your people and folks will drive for miles to come see. It is time that we stop taking shortcuts.
These are the days of shallow Christianity. Much of today's preaching is often shallow, our teaching is often shallow, our searching for God is often very shallow, and our experiences with God are often shallow and have been reduced to a few chill bumps and a few folks falling out in the Spirit. Preachers, why are we so impressed when folks fall out? The real miracle is not in that they fall, but it is in how they walk in their everyday life. However, we have adopted a shallow mentality that has infected our minds and our ministries. If this is true about many who are in ministry, how can it be any different for the ones who sit each week under that kind of preaching and teaching? It's no wonder then how we can get by these days with so little in the pulpit; much is not expected anymore. There are simply no shortcuts to authentic ministry. There is no shortcut to a life lived in the Spirit. To have God's favor, God's anointing, and God's power at work in one's life still comes with a price. What is the price? It is aloneness with God. Jesus stated it this way: But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father. (Mt 6:6 NASB) In other words, shut yourself in with God. I hope and pray that all of us are willing and ready to pay this price. If not, may God make us willing.
To every pastor and preacher of the gospel, and to all of you who are involved in ministry, it is my desire that you would join with me in a re-evaluation of our current ministries. Together, let's make sure that we are doing real ministry. Let's make sure that we are not taking shortcuts. The tragic curse of this last hour is last minute preparation, last minute praying, and last minute study. It is a fruitless attempt! Let's abandon it and repent. When doing ministry, let's make sure that God is the One we are trying to please, not men. Remember, ministry success is not defined by men, but by God. At the Judgement Seat, it will be His holy fire that all of our works will have to pass through. Will they stand the test of His scrutiny?
In the midst of all that's going on in our world today, as well as in the church, let us not be dismayed. We still have the promise of Joel chapter two. "It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." God is still willing to pour out His Spirit in the last days. This is the only hope for any church; but, it is a hope well placed. Remember, "God is not a man that He should lie." His promises still hold true today. In Jeremiah 29:13, the Lord said "ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart". May God grant us the grace to seek for Him passionately. No more shortcuts.