James S. Stewart was teaching homiletics at New College at the University of Edinburgh. “Preaching,” said Stewart, “lies not in methods to be studied or in techniques to be acquired: It belongs to that mysterious region where the soul of a man is disciplined by the spirit of God. This being so, no one can really ‘teach himself’ to preach; in this realm, the very phrase ‘self-taught’ smacks of heresy. It is a fact that to the end of the longest ministry, one cannot hope to be anything other than a halting learner still. It is one thing to be tutored in the rules of the preacher’s craft, which is of relatively minor importance. On the other hand, it is quite another thing to learn of him whom Nicodemus called ‘a teacher come from God.’”
Any person who thinks preaching is about ourselves is on the wrong road. Preaching is about God, and what he can do in our lives. To neglect this in our preaching should be a sin. We lift our ministers and church leaders to God, and pray for his blessings upon them. Give us the spiritual vision to see our needs, and the fortitude to work unceasingly until Thy will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Any of us who use too many personal me’s, my and I’s is not preaching the gospel. The hungry congregation is listening for a word from the Son of God. If there is no good word from God or his Son, we are failures. Unless the congregation meets God face to face, we should hang up the sermon and remind ourselves, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” We must pray for the forgiveness of God.
We pray for all the churches everywhere who lift up our Lord. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Me.”
We pray that you will forgive our failures. If we have been quick to criticize and slow to forgive, touch the harsh notes on the strings of our hearts so our lives will produce angelic symphonies. May we be faithful until the earthly journey is over and our work is done. Grant us the peace that comes when we hear the gentle voice of our Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
You have promised, “As our days, so shall our strength be.” You are the source of our existence and the goal of our journey. We are not our own, we were bought with a price. O, the memory of that bloody cross fills our hearts still with love for him who loved us, and whom we must serve. The congregation is not waiting on our views, opinions and advice. The congregation wants to know, “Is there any word from the Lord?” If our sermons do not have a word from the Lord, we have failed, and we should ask for our Lord’s forgiveness.
We are called to preach the gospel. Popularity is not our goal. Let us preach nothing down but the devil and nothing up but Christ. If we do that, we will be doing the will of God.
Let us kindle a flame of sacred love in these cold hearts of ours. We pray, Lord, that you will take from our battered souls the strain and stress, and let our troubled lives confess the beauty of Thy peace. Only You can give us the peace that passeth understanding. We love you, Lord, and pray that you will lift us from our spiritual poverty into the riches of Thy grace.
Robert V. Ozment is a retired United Methodist minister.