by John Meador
Passion is a word that often speaks of enthusiasm, energy and zeal. A "passionate" preacher, to some, is a speaker that is loud and fervent in his presentation. I'll never forget the joke about the little boy wondering what would happen if the overzealous and excitable preacher ever got loose from his leash (the microphone cord)! And we've all known preachers who scream their way to a conclusion and have said nothing worthwhile.
On the other hand, we have more and more preachers who are "relating" and "connecting" in their messages on the weekends. It is almost fashionable to speak in a non-definitive way these days, it seems. What is the right way to effectively present the message God has given us?
I'd like to suggest a different approach. God has given each preacher a unique personality and a personal approach to the presentation of the message. I don't believe it is so much an issue of volume or excitability as it is a matter of "authority."
We are told in Mark 1:22 that Jesus " was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Now, there's a verse that makes me sit up and pay attention. Jesus was teaching in a very different way from the scribes. To the people, His message had authority and power-they were captured by what He said, but also by how He taught! The scribes, according to the original language, were "absolutely not" like that. What was the difference? What does it mean to teach "as one having authority?"
Here's my take on it:
Jesus taught as one who knew He'd been sent by God with a message. The word "authority" in Mark means "someone who has permission, or the ability that one has delegated to him." While no human will be sent so directly as Jesus was, we are "sent by God" with a message for His church and the world. There should be a sense of "sent-ness" to our preaching. We must know that the Lord wants us to communicate His Word from the pulpit. We could call this the "authority of command." God has commanded us to go and speak.
Jesus taught as one who knew God experientially. Obviously, the scribes had a dedication to copying the letters and words of Scripture, but apparently had no real relationship with the One who wrote the words. Jesus Himself made an incredible statement about His teaching: " the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world...I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me" (John 8:28b, 29). Over the years, I've learned that my walk with God greatly influences my sense of knowing His heart as I read and prepare the Word for preaching. When I know I've heard from God, that passion comes out in my preaching. It is what I call the "authority of intimacy."
Jesus taught as one who knew the Scripture accurately. There were many "if's" in the scribal teaching-much speculation-just as there is today with many modern preachers. Jesus, however, didn't do much speculation. His message had the authority of accuracy. It contained definite truth, not just speculative questions. Perhaps this is why Paul told young Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
(2 Tim. 2:15). When I use the tools of Bible study to help me be accurate in interpretation, and when I give the time and attention to know the Word, I can preach with the "authority of accuracy."
Jesus taught as one having the fullness of God's Spirit. It thrills me no end to know that God has promised us power to be witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, referring to Pentecost (Acts 1:8). That same Holy Spirit dwells in each of us from the moment we become born again. As we are "filled with the Spirit," we are given a special authority for communicating God's truths. We might call this the "authority of anointing."
When I realize my calling and nurture my personal walk with the Lord, there is a whole new realm to preaching that energizes me, and consequently, the message. When I add the accuracy from diligent study and the fullness of His Holy Spirit, there is an element of authority that is captivating. While not mystical, it is nonetheless supernatural. It is, for me, the "God-moment" of preaching, when His Divine Presence assists the human spokesman in discernable ways.
To the hearer, it has the authority to convict and persuade-and to transform.
John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.