We live in a time when authority and preaching are bad words. Combine the two? Preaching with authority! It’s a counter-culture thing. Everything in the news would tell you that you need to be less dogmatic about your Christian beliefs. Thus, it will be easy to lose this aspect of preaching within the church and not even realize it. Instead of making bold claims to truth, instead of proclaiming the Gospel passionately, we can easily fall into passive preaching that merely hopes what is preached to be true.
Jason K. Allen, the president of Midwestern Seminary said this, “Bold, authoritative preaching is the urgent need of the hour. Such preaching will hasten revival in the church, and further the Great Commission.” If he is right, which I believe he is, we must get back to a proper foundation of preaching with authority. Here are 5 keys to get us there.
Preaching With Authority: 5 Keys to Do So
Before we jump in, allow me to make a few clarifying points about preaching with authority. First, preaching with authority does not mean that we as preachers have all the answers or should claim to. Second, preaching with authority does not mean that we all of a sudden become angry preachers who yell the entire time we are in the pulpit. Third, preaching with authority can be done in a way that fits your preaching voice. You don’t have to become John Piper or _________ (fill in another pastor of your choice) to preach with authority.
Be you. But be you while embracing these 5 things as a preacher.
1. Plant yourself and your words on the authority of the Bible.
It is a sure lie to begin to believe the idea that if you as the preacher have not gone through a certain struggle, then you cannot speak on it from the Bible’s perspective. Why? Because we don’t stand on the authority of our own experiences first, we stand on the authority of the Bible first.
If we have experiences to speak to whatever is brought up in the text, then there you have an illustration built in. Great! But speaking out against murder doesn’t require the speaker to have murdered or to have been murdered (that wouldn’t be possible) or to have had someone close to them murdered. In the same way, it is not required of the speaker to know what it’s like to be addicted to drugs in order to speak to addiction. The preacher, again, does not depend on experience, but on the authority of the Bible.
Your foundation must be God’s word. If you are speaking on a topic that requires extra-biblical research, then use that research to point back to the truth of the Bible. It should never be the other way around.
Look at what God’s words tells preachers just like you and me:
Paul, speaking to the church in Corinth regarding him and Apollos, and (I believe) every preacher thereafter said this, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” – 1 Corinthians 4:1
Paul, speaking to the young Titus said this, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” – Titus 2:15
Declare (preach)! Exhort and rebuke with all authority. Don’t even let people disregard you. That’s Paul emboldening Titus and us.
Do you look at yourself as a steward of the mysteries of God? If you’re depending on your own experience first then you certainly won’t.
2. Let God’s Spirit do work in you, then through you.
God’s word is a double edged sword, not just for the congregation you pastor, but also for you. Let God’s word by God’s Spirit do work in you while you prepare your sermon. Never close yourself off to Scripture when preparing a sermon to preach.
Sermon preparation is not just a task of the job, it is a conversation between you and God as you wrestle to understand what He desires for you to share with others. You must open yourself to the text and the Spirit as you begin to understand and consider where you yourself are falling short.
Once this has been done, you are more readily able to proclaim with all authority, the word of God to the people of God and to the seekers of God. But this is not about what you can do, it’s about what He can do. God is the one who should be depended upon to plant the seed of the sermon deep within the hearts of your hearers.
He leads, the preacher follows.
3. Lead your hearers on a journey of discovery.
Just as you are following God in the preparation and delivery of the sermon, you want to take that same approach and lead the congregation on a journey of discovery.
Paul did this: “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” – Acts 17:2
We should too. But what does this look like? It looks like walking through Scripture (here’s how) and reasoning with your hearers on the implications of the text. Just as you went through a process of discovering the truth of the text in your preparation, you should also take your hearers on a process of discovering the truth of the text in your proclamation.
Anticipate their objections, their hangups, their misunderstandings, then address those things. Think of yourself as a tour guide who is revealing God’s word in a way that feels like discovery instead of a series single statements. This will help with that.
4. Believe the message you preach with your whole heart.
Jason K. Allen makes this same point in his article on preaching with authority. He goes to history to seen an account about George Whitefield, a preacher who was followed by his century’s leading skeptic, David Hume. Here’s how Allen puts it:
David Hume, one of the 18th century’s leading skeptics, closely followed Whitefield’s ministry. On one occasion Hume traveled more than 20 miles before dawn to hear Whitefield preach. A fellow attender recognized Hume and inquired as to his attendance. “Where are you going this early hour?” “I am going to hear Whitefield preach” replied Hume. “But you don’t believe a word he preaches,” said the man.” “No,” Hume answered, “but he does.”
Notice that? Hume didn’t believe what Whitefield was preaching, but he knew that Whitefield believed every word.
If you miss #2, you’ll miss this one, too. You must believe in what you are preaching. If you believe it, it will show. You’ll be more passionate, more believable, more enthusiastic if you believe what you are preaching.
5. Show your hearers how to apply biblical truth.
To begin preaching with authority, you must show how the biblical truth pervades into everyday life. Give examples, tell stories of how others have applied this truth into their lives.
Think about this: if your sermon never moves from theology to life, many of your hearers will file it away in theology and not life. This is especially true for men. If we don’t see the real-life application of the biblical truth, then it simply becomes knowledge and not lifestyle.
We must, if we are going to preach with authority, help move people to action in light of the biblical truth. Then and only then will people truly see that the biblical truths you so passionately proclaim are, in fact, authoritative for life.
For more on applying Scripture to life, give these a look:
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