Chapter 147

Preparing the Messenger

A strong delivery results from getting our whole person ready to preach

In 1986 I had a series of experiences that turned my preaching around. I came to realize that the ability to help or stir people depends primarily on preparing the heart of the preacher.

I found in myself that the pull toward religious Pharisaism is a constant, a given. That's why I need to respect the manna principle. I need fresh bread every day, fresh oil every day, fresh water every day. If it's left over from yesterday, it's stale and stinky.

I also found it is a given that the emotional and physical realm of my person is largely sealed off from the Holy Spirit by the activities and busyness of life. I start with that assumption, as opposed to thinking that I am always "in the Spirit" unless I do something really bad.

For all these reasons, I need to prepare the messenger as much as I prepare the message.

I Need to Prepare Every Part of Me

My philosophy of preparing the messenger arises out of the nature of man. The Bible talks about loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, strength. So I see four parts of my person that I need to prepare before I preach: my physical body, my emotions, my will, and my intellect. A person is a composite of all these characteristics. For example, we are not a spirit with a body; the body is part of our person.

Before preaching, I need to provide enough time and opportunity for God to affect every element of my personal makeup: my mind, emotions, body, and will. I call this the preparation of the messenger, as opposed to the preparation of the message. The exegetical, theological, and homiletical work are mainly the preparation of the message. But preparing the physical, emotional, and volitional elements of the messenger are required as well before the sermon is truly ready.

If I don't have my own emotions stirred by the message, for example, to the point of laughter, tears, anger, then I have not yet allowed the message to interact with the whole person. The message is more than a body of truth. The idea that preaching is just the distribution of ideas is a Western intellectual notion of what communication is all about. Preaching is much more than a cognitive experience.

I Need to "Get in the Spirit"

My assumption about myself is that I am not generally hearing or feeling or moving in the Spirit. To "get in the Spirit" is to let all the human personal makeup be affected by God's Spirit.

This means my emotions must be stirred so that I feel deeply about the message to be preached. It means submitting my will to God's Word. And it means the physical expression of worship and enthusiasm. The work of preparing the messenger is to allow the Holy Spirit to touch all of that.

You've got to get on fire before you can set a fire. You can't give what you don't have. I have some disciplines I follow in the preparation process to get in the Spirit. After the message is entirely prepared, I usually schedule two hours to allow the Spirit to affect the messenger.

The tether that runs from the heart of the hearer to the throne of God passes through the heart, not the head, of the preacher.