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Pentecostal Preaching (Part 3)

Preaching and the Gifts of the Spirit

By Craig Brian Larson

In one essential model of preaching, preachers proclaim the Word and urge hearers to respond specifically to the claim of the message. If they succeed in those two crucial areas, they have accomplished their mission. The Holy Spirit uses this model, for it is the foundation of biblical preaching.

In another important model, preachers also proclaim the Word and urge hearers to respond to the message, but they make a significant addition. They call hearers forward (or to another location) not only for decision, but also to receive personal ministry. The preacher’s goal in appealing for a response is to impart further grace as the Lord chooses. The preacher ministers to hearers through personal intercession, the laying on of hands, and the manifestation of other gifts of the Spirit such as healing and inspired counsel — all in complete dependence on the power of the Spirit. In this model the preacher ministers to the whole person — body, soul, and spirit — often to a wider variety of needs and desires than those specifically addressed in the message. The mission is accomplished when the Lord touches those who desire it.

Although these two models have many varieties, there is a key distinction: the second model links preaching to a vital wide-ranging ministry to needy people. Ministry is done in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit described in the Books of Acts and 1 Corinthians are present. The basic concept of this model is preaching accomplishes more when it works in concert with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

This model follows the pattern of Jesus and the apostles. At the start of His ministry Jesus came to His hometown of Nazareth and gave His missions statement, reading from Isaiah 61: “ ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:18–21).

The Gospels clearly explain how Jesus fulfilled this mission. Wherever Jesus went He preached the Word and ministered supernaturally to people’s needs in the power of the Spirit.

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35,36). In Jesus’ ministry, the coming of the Kingdom included not only the coming of the Word, but also the coming of power to set people free from what oppressed them.

Jesus commissioned His disciples and the 72 to follow the same pattern: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7,8).

It was not by accident that Jesus coupled personal ministry in the power of the Spirit with preaching, for they complement one another perfectly. The Word of God creates faith, and faith is the climate of power, answered prayer, healings, breakthroughs, and miracles. “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

What is more, the preaching of the Word of God is an act of worship, for God is glorified as preachers declare His ways, promises, and the good news. The church has observed for millennia that sincere worship can invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit as surely as the prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit.”

In addition, preaching leads to repentance. This opens the door to healing and restoration. James 5:16 says: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

According to the Scriptures, the works of God testify to the truth of the Word of God. The Lord “confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders” (Acts 14:3).

This model of preaching puts enormous demands on the preacher. We must not only bring a message to proclaim, but we must also bring spiritual resources such as faith and acute spiritual perception to the personal ministry that follows. James says, “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well” (5:15). Aside from the spiritual preparation needed to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit, preachers need to shape messages that prepare for the personal ministry that follows. Ministry that is Kingdom empowered usually follows a sermon with these characteristics:

This preaching model need not be locked into any cultural form or style of music. The point is to follow preaching with personal ministry in whatever way suits the culture of the hearers.

Depending on our gifts, we may not use this model every time we preach. The special leading of the Spirit, the necessity of preaching the whole counsel of God, and the benefits of sequential expository preaching may make this model less suited for some occasions. But this model has an essential place for preachers who believe that all the gifts of the Spirit are valid until Jesus returns in glory.

Craig Brian Larson is editor of Christianity Today International’s preaching resources — PreachingToday.com and Preaching Today audio — as well as pastor of Lake Shore Church (Assemblies of God) in Chicago. He is coauthor of Preaching That Connects (Zondervan 1994).

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