Fellow preachers, when we were ordained as elders in the church it was to a preaching ministry not a parroting ministry. You probably remember with great clarity the moment the denominational leader laid his hands on you and admonished you to “preach the Word.” Although that happened to me many years ago it was a defining moment early in my ministry.
Across these years I took that phrase to mean that I should preach the Word and not a word written by someone else. I was not commissioned to preach someone else’s sermon but God’s sermon written through the giving of His written Word and His Living Word. For better or worse I have refrained from taking a sermon from another preacher and adding my own personal illustrations to make it seem to be my sermon. Perhaps, indeed likely, my sermons would have had better content if I had given into the temptation to adapt a sermon but I could have never preached it with power or enthusiasm.
Trust me, I understand the seductive lure of saving time by searching the internet for just the right sermon. For many years in my ministry I had four new oral presentations to prepare each week: two sermons on Sunday, a Wednesday night Bible study, and a Sunday School lesson. Life would have been easier if I could have googled my sermons. What a time saver! But, after all these years, I have not given in to that temptation.
Currently, there is some debate regarding the morality and ethics of preaching material from other people. My goal in this post is not to engage in that discussion. Decide for yourself if preaching a sermon you did not write is ethical. Here is my simple point: you will never be able to preach with true passion unless and until you have first wrestled with the text. Fire in the pulpit cannot be generated by a search engine called Google. To wrestle with the text is to wrestle with God Himself. And like Jacob by the Jabbok River, great preachers wrestle with the text and refuse to let go until God blesses him or her with truth to proclaim. When that happens there is a fire brand in the pulpit, not a ventriloquist parroting warmed over truth.
By the way, as you wrestle with the text, I suggest you focus on the right question. The WRONG question is to ask, “What can I say about the text?” The RIGHT question is to ask, “What does this text say about ME?” Wrestle with the text until you know the answer to that question and it will transform your preaching moment.
Let’s preach the Word!