I still remember the very first time that I stood behind a pulpit to deliver the message on Sunday morning. I had prepared for hours upon hours. Crafting my sermon to be faithful to Jesus, helpful for the congregation, and biblically faithful.
Finally it was Sunday morning and I drove one hour to fill the pulpit of I Forget the Name Baptist Church. I believer there were about 25 dear saints there that morning—gracious enough to have a young pastor wannabe preaching the gospel to them. My knees were knocking as I began the discourse. The first five minutes were really rough. And then something happened…
I began moving a little outside the manuscript and speaking from what the Spirit had laid on my heart. I felt for the rest of the sermon a good deal of freedom and a growing sense of love and unity with these dear believers.
Towards the end of the sermon if I remember correctly I also had a heightened sense of pride, “I’m really doing it, look at me I’m really preaching…” Then I started to feel quite shackled again. My freedom of speech was gone. Something was missing. In that brief moment I started trusting in my competency as a preacher. God was gracious, left me, I fumbled and stumbled, and then once again threw myself on the mercy of the Lord. I closed the sermon with freedom and what preachers of old would call “unction”.
What brought about that freedom, heightened sense, growing love, and greater confidence in the Word? According to Albert N. Martin I was in those moments engaged in Preaching in the Holy Spirit.
Preaching in the Holy Spirit is a helpful little booklet published by Reformation Heritage Books. Its 67 pages are actually the fruit of Martin’s 2 messages at an annual pastor’s conference in October of 2002 on “Preaching in the Spirit”. For the readers benefit the booklet is broken up into five chapters.
In the first chapter Martin hopes to chart the course, explaining that this booklet will address the agency and operation of the Holy Spirit (as a sovereign divine Person) with reference to the act of preaching itself. After this introduction Martin argues in chapter two for the indispensable necessity of the Spirit in preaching. Here he shows that the Spirit was needed in the ministry of Jesus, the apostles, and all new-covenant ministry.
The third and fourth chapters are the meat of the booklet. In these chapters Martin attempts to explain what preaching in the Spirit looks like as well as the experience of diminished preaching, respectively. He concludes with a passionate plea to “let Christ loose” (66) and to keep preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you ever have certain beliefs, passions, or experiences that you never really tell anybody, but finally some brave soul opens up and shares that they too have the same experience? What a relief to know that you aren’t a total nutjob; at least not in this area.
I felt that way reading this book.
What Albert N. Martin describes about the preaching experience—both in the positive and negative—has been my typical experience in preaching for the last ten plus years. I was deeply encouraged to know that what I am experiencing is not just being amped up on an extra does of caffeine but it is the operation of the Holy Spirit.
I was also rebuked and helped by Martin. Not every time I preach do I do so with an enlarged heart, heightened sense, growing confidence in the Word, and great freedom. And because of this I could sadly identify with Martin’s fourth chapter on a restrained or diminished measure of the Spirit. It was helpful to know some of the pitfalls that preachers fall into that might cause a diminished measure of the Spirit.
One of the greatest strengths of the work is Martin’s balanced view of the relationship between Spirit-driven study and Spirit-directed preaching. Sometimes the Spirit is quenched because of our lack of study, and other times he is grieved because we are more shackled by our manuscript than we are free in Jesus. Martin encourages intentional study for the sake of freedom in preaching. Very helpful.
This book should be a welcome addition into any pastor’s library, if nothing more than simply to paint a picture of what your Sunday morning should look like. This is not an exhaustive study of the topic. (For a more thorough treatment I would suggest Arturo Azurdia’s Spirit-Empowered Preaching). Thought not exhaustive this primer still packs a punch. There is plenty within these 67 pages that will edify the preacher and cause us to long for more of the Spirit’s work in our preaching.
You can buy your copy here.