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preaching article R.C. Sproul on Potent Preaching

R.C. Sproul on Potent Preaching

based on 9 ratings
Feb 29, 2012
Scripture: none
(Suggest Scripture)

We don’t understand God. What is it about Him that so often leads Him to mute His power, to hide behind the weak and lame? It’s not as though He doesn’t understand His own power. His Word created the whole of the universe. His Spirit gave life to us when we were dead. That Word never returns void. That Spirit is omnipotent. But He has chosen to not only work on us, but to work through us. The Word reaches the apex of its power not when it stands alone, but when it is preached. God is pleased to use the foolishness of preaching to give life, to change the world. He works through us.

Such presents us with a peculiar temptation. On the one hand we want to affirm the power of preaching. On the other hand, we don’t want to fall into “power preaching.” That is, we don’t want to embrace the foolishness of the world, thinking this showy gift and that precision technique is how we tap into that power. A man in a power tie, making power gestures, using PowerPoint has likely missed the power. Instead, just as God has chosen the foolish things of the world to change the world, just as He shows strength in our weakness, so we must embrace weakness if we would see the power.

Potent preaching then is not marked ultimately by the application of brilliant minds. Neither is it the fruit of brilliant techniques. Instead the power comes when the preacher is willing to be shown to be weak. We are changed by preaching when the Word shows us our need, exposing our sin. We are changed when the Word shows us the solution, the finished work of Christ. We are changed when preaching agrees with the Word, that we must repent and believe. What we need is not clearer commentaries. What we need is not more homiletics classes. What we need in the pulpit is courage.

I know that I cannot see into the hearts of others. I do not see the sins of the sheep in the pews. I can, at least to a degree, see my own sin. And it is rather safe to assume that my sin and my neighbors’ sins are not so distant. If I would preach to the sins of the congregation, I must preach to my own sins. In days of cultural decline such as our own, it is rather easy for preachers to thunder against the sins of the broader culture. This too, however, is a form of ear-tickling. “Aren’t they awful” as a common message will ultimately translate soon enough into “But we’re okay.” Our calling, however, is to feed our sheep. Which means we must preach to their sins. Which means we must preach to our own.

Courage then is what we need in our pulpits, the courage to look honestly to our own sins. And that is driven by gospel confidence. I can face my sin because it is already dealt with. I can speak to it because God has already declared it to be forgiven.  If we will humble ourselves, He will come in both grace and power. And that changes everything.



R. C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries (named after the Ligonier Valley just outside of Pittsburgh, where the ministry started as a study center for college and seminary students) and can be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally. "Renewing Your Mind with Dr. R.C. Sproul" is also broadcast on Sirius and XM satellite radio.

Talk about it...

Adrien Thorne avatar
Adrien Thorne
0 days ago
I agree with everything brother Sproul is saying in spirit, but I don't think it has to do with the style or venue with which one delivers his/her message, e.g.: PowerPoint; power moves; power voice, etc. It is, however, about being broken before the Lord and understanding that no matter how gifted or educated one is, the servant of the Lord must recognize that he/she stands only by the grace of God.
Jason Jones avatar
Jason Jones
0 days ago
That's a good word brother Sproul.
Jimmie Don Willingham avatar
Jimmie Don Willingham
0 days ago
Insightful, though-provoking, stimulating, stirring, Dr. Sproul has spoken to the issue in preaching. Get to that issue and one will experience contrition, the broken heart, the humiliation and sense of shame at one's failures and short-comings. From there it will spread to others, when and if it is backed by prayer to that end.
Scott Hourigan avatar
Scott Hourigan
0 days ago
R.C. is a great biblical scholar and a great expositor. His style is very provacative and profound. His endeavors are to be applauded and upheld especially his honesty about his own shortcomings. He acknowledges that when he is preaching to the sheep he is also preaching to himself. God Spirit is supernaturally transforming himself while channgeing others lives at the same time. Let us not forget that as we study and prepare to teach and preach others that we are learning lessons at the same time. R.C. keep up the good work!!!!
Jay Didriksen avatar
Jay Didriksen
0 days ago
I think Sproul is touching on a deeper issue of preaching than many articles posted here. He is not condemning styles or tactics but what is in your heart. Do you believe Jesus is really all you need in order to preach? Everything else from commentaries, logical arguments, power points, power ties, speaking style, approach, preparation, phrasing, flow, communicating for change, structure, and the main idea are all periphery. If those things become what preaching is and means we actually hinder how God works through us...we get in the way.
Chaplain Shawn Kennedy avatar
Chaplain Shawn Kennedy
0 days ago
I think what Sproul is saying is what has always been the crux of preaching. It's not the message, it's the messenger.
Scott Hourigan avatar
Scott Hourigan
0 days ago
chaplain, your comments are to be laudated, they are encouraging and correct. The messenger is the krux. He is the crucial point. We all must agree that preaching Jesus and all of His inspired (God breathed) TRUTH is of upmost importance. Our methods and means of delivering the message are unimportant. Our persuasive speech and use of appetizing words have no influence to the comman man. It is the power of the Gospel that spawns in the heart of man the desire to seek His righteousness and His salvation!! It is faith in Him birthed by the foolish preaching of the word that changes the inner man, not our cunning techniques and exaustive vocabulary. P.S. I am in no way trying to curtail anyone from expanding their vocabulary or ability to communicate with lucidity. What i am saying is that we shouldnt embrace the idea that our power points or wisdom is needed to enhance the gospel message. thanx for your comments chaplain
Samuel Miller avatar
Samuel Miller
0 days ago
Honesty in preaching is a great key to effective preaching. This is a great article.
Robert Sickler avatar
Robert Sickler
0 days ago
Dr. Sproul has made a good point, but the last thing we want is a preacher getting in front of the congregation and giving a 30 minute confession every Sunday. At the same time, we do not want a demigod standing in the pulpit and perpetually chastising the congregation. I know what the people want: a pabulum spewing health, wealth and happiness preacher. Fact is, however, we need a bit of all three, interspersed across a steady diet of unaltered gospel message teachings.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.