I Stopped Preaching

I had something happen this past Sunday that has not happened in years.  I stopped preaching. In the middle of a sermon – I just stopped preaching.

Let me explain.

I have been preaching/teaching through the life of David on and off for two and a half years.  Normally on Tuesday, I prepare about eight pages of a scripted set of notes.  Eight pages normally fits just right as far as what I want to say and less importantly into the time frame I want to say it.

This past week I had eight pages that I prayed about and I prayed over.  I went over and over the message as I usually do throughout the week.  I hone the message over the course of the week by preaching it out loud and making changes to it along the way.  I do nothing with the message all day Saturday but I do go over it one last time before I go to bed and then on  Sunday I go over it once during the hour before the service.

This week on Saturday night I started getting a gnawing feeling when I was going over it.  I started getting the sense that I should just stop about 4 pages in.  I was covering chapter 17 of 2nd Samuel and specifically verses 15 –29.  I changed things up and was to cover verse 23  first, which has to do with Ahithophel’s suicide, then go back to verse 15 and go to the end of the chapter. The reason I was doing this was because I sensed that the message would flow better starting here and then moving back then going forward in the verses.

My main point on verse 23 had to do with how Ahithophel committed suicide by hanging himself but many of us commit spiritual suicide because we strangle ourselves spiritually by not doing the things we know need to do.  By ignoring the spiritual things in life and not doing what we need to do, we slowly commit spiritual suicide.  As I said, Saturday night I started getting this gnawing feeling and sensing the spirit wanted me to stop at this point but I was unsure.  I wrestled with those thoughts for sometime then went to bed unsure of what I was to do.

Sunday morning before I went to the study at the church to go over the message I was getting the same sense from the Spirit but was still unsure.  When I got to the study,  I went over the whole thing and was still really unsure of what to do.  It was a battle going on inside of me of what the Spirit was leading to do.  The service started and  as we were singing some songs I said things to God like “Lord – if we get to this time and I have not stood to speak then I know that it is a sign that I am to only do verse 23 but if not then I am to do the whole thing”.  I was still struggling with what really the leading of the Spirit was.

I stood up to preach.  In all honesty, I did not do a great job with the message because I was distracted and I stammered though some parts of it.   I preached through verse 23 and then went back and  started reading verses 15 and 16 to preach them and that was the moment it was all clear.  I just needed to stop right then and there.  So  I stopped preaching.  I was in the middle of reading verses and I just stopped and paused.

I looked up and said “The Spirit of God is prompting me to stop right here and right now”.  I wrapped things up and finished up the service with a closing hymn and opened up the altar to those who wished to pray or speak with me about anything which is what happens each Sunday.

Here is the thing – Revival did not break out.  A couple people came up and prayed and comments about the message were at a minimum.  The reality is – that is all just fine.  The thing is – in this case I was obedient to the Spirit and that was the most important thing.  My point is this:  when the Spirit leads – be obedient – we simply need to be obedient.  I see obedience as a real key to life and a key to ministry.  I pray I get better at it.

Sad thing is this – there have been many times where I was not obedient to the Spirit.  Times when I have been prompted to give money and it stayed in my wallet.  Times when I was prompted to say something and I kept quiet.  Times I was prompted to stop preaching in the past and I continued anyway in my own strength and not His.

Lord  – help me be obedient to you and your promptings today.

What is the craziest thing that the has Spirit prompted you to do?  Did you do it?  What were the consequences – good or bad?

Soul-Deep!

In Gordon MacDonald’s Building Below the Waterline he talks about Soul-deep preaching (pages 163-172).  Soul-deep preaching is called “Anointed” or “Sprit -filled” preaching by others as they reflect on the origin of the preaching power (164).  He talks about how soul-deep preaching produces conversion or brave new actions – things that only come from God and His Spirit working.  Anyone of us who are called to speak the Word of God desire times when we have the power of the Spirit come and conversion happen and people making decisions that have eternal impact and make choices that will change their lives and others lives positively for all eternity.

This chapter has me thinking about my style of preaching and preparation and wondering about if it is soul deep or not.  Here is one thing that I have learned and is that there are all different ways of doing preparation and all different styles and that no one way is the “right” or “anointed” way when it comes to preaching style or preparations. 

Now there are are other things that MacDonald covers here that are important when soul-deep preaching.  First is that it is an “act of God”.  There is not a technique or a mechanic that produces a soul-deep message.  It can come from a scholar or an uneducated man because is is an act of God.  The person does matter though according to MacDonald – an I agree – because personal holiness is an issue that makes a difference on if God will act.

Soul-deep preaching affects people in their daily lives and as MacDonald says it does not “teach people to survive only in the protected cage of the church and among Christianized people”.  Soul-deep preachers are ones who preach with passion.  He then goes on to talk about those times when God for whatever reason chooses to really crack through hardened hearts and they happen only when it is covered in the non-negotiable and that is prayer.  I firmly believe and MacDonald does too, that any message that is soul-deep begins with prayer.

Soul-deep preaching produces repentance, a deep love for Jesus, and causes the listener to image how when they go out the door from the church and then how they can make difference and serve Jesus in a powerful way.  Soul-deep preaching is remembered and lived out beyond Sunday.

MacDonald ends with a quote that really sums this up for me and one that I find powerful.  It is a quote by founder of the Quaker Movement and a man who was said to truly be a soul-deep preacher.

“I took people to Jesus Christ and left them there.” – George Fox

This quote I think sums up my passion for preaching.  I want to be know as a preacher who takes people to Jesus and leaves them there.  This is my aim every time I am privileged to stand up and share the Word of God.

Who preached a soul-deep sermon that you heard and what it about?  If you are a Pastor – have you ever had a message be soul-deep?  What were the results that were seen from it?

This post is a part of the blogging on  the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from  Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten .  We are sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters,  which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together.  I pray your are encouraged by the blogs.