by Doy Cave
Evangelist Stephen Olford says preaching is not just about a good sermon, and if preachers want to see the power of God in their ministries, they will have to not only be passionate and certain about the message, but also live a life of holiness to God.
Olford was the guest speaker at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's annual Stanfield Preaching Lectures last fall. Speaking to a large group of prospective ministers, he outlined the aspects of what he called an "incarnational preaching" ministry, in which preachers are not only to preach the Word of God, but to live it as well.
Olford was particularly concerned with overwhelming statistics which indicate pastors are becoming more and more susceptible to worldliness. Citing Chuck Colson's book, The Body, he noted the fact that pastors have the largest divorce rate among any other vocation; one in 10 pastors have had affairs with members of their congregation; and 25 percent of pastors have engaged in illicit affairs. He also noted that the rise of the Internet has led countless pastors down the road of addiction to pornography, and cybersex has torn down many a family once grounded in the Word. This worldliness, he said, is draining the pulpit of God's supernatural power to change lives.
"Beloved, if you stand behind this holy desk and your life isn't pure; if your life isn't absolutely holy as far as you know it; if you are not walking under an unclouded sky with the ungrieved, unquenched Holy Spirit in your life; then, my friend, you've absolutely blocked the message from any authority whatsoever," he said.
In order to "always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks" (1Pet. 3:13-17), Olford said, the preacher must have Jesus as the undisputed spokesman in his life. To achieve this a preacher must spend time in devotion.
Confronting a large group of students the speaker bluntly asked: "Did you have your quiet time this morning?"
He noted that Jesus himself was accustomed to having a daily quiet time with God and was recorded as having that time everyday. Recalling his own time in seminary training, he told of asking his professor about a daily quiet time, wondering what to do when he didn't feel like spending that time with God.
"He looked directly at me, his eyes narrowing, and said, ‘Pray when you feel like it. Pray when you don't feel like it. Pray until you do feel like it.' It's not a matter of feeling. It's a matter of obedience."
"Be Ye Holy, for I Am Holy."
This command in 1 Pet. 1:16 "does not leave any loopholes," Olford stressed. "Failure to obey is sin, and sin is opposed to holiness. Preachers, he said, should be determined to be holy, "It should be an act of will to be in obedience to God." Noting Saul's disobedience in 2 Kings, he reminded students that nothing pleases God as much as obedience. He compared a preacher's willful holiness to that of the Levite priests of the Old Testament, who were not allowed into God's presence unless they were clean. If they failed to do so, they died.
"How can I take the Bible into my hand; how can I take the posture to preach, without purity?"
The Power of the Holy Spirit Promised
Preachers should finally understand the "power for preaching," embodied in the work of the Holy Spirit, he insisted. Luke 24:44-53 is a "paternal promise," contained in Jesus' last words to His disciples. Here He promised them the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, Olford recalled.
This power, he said, was absolutely essential to preaching God's Word. "You cannot preach a supernatural Savior without a supernatural power," he said. "Don't speak until you are endued with power from on high."
Olford noted that the power of the Spirit is also necessary to "untangle the minds of those who hear the messenger." "Until [Christ] returns, our task is always to open the Scriptures to minds untangled by the Holy Spirit," he said. "Paul knew nothing of Thessalonica, but he took the Bible and took the Holy Spirit in his heart, and in three weeks a church emerged."
Olford's believes so many churches are declining, through what's called "shallow discipleship," due to the fact many preachers are not preaching with the authority of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. "Without that anointing, there is no purpose, no power, and no authority."
After the final sermon, Olford challenges students to commit themselves to walking closely with God in the power of the Spirit, committing themselves to holiness. Students flooded the aisles in confession and repentance, praying for renewal in their ministry.