On behalf of all the pastors who long to serve their church Sunday by Sunday, I call on all of us to plead with God for power in the pulpit. I call on all of us to make it our responsibility to pray for the preacher and the preaching. I call on all of us to consider that weak and powerless preaching may have as much to do—or even more to do—with the congregation’s lack of prayer than the pastor’s lack of preparation.
The sermon fizzles instead of sizzles. The text seems to become opaque rather than clear. The illustrations fall flat while the application somehow fails to strike the heart, the mind, or the hands. The pastor seems distracted and discouraged while the congregation seems uninterested and unmoved.
I expect we have all sat through a few sermons that, if not quite as bad as all that, were still strangely weak. I am certain we have all experienced sermons that seemed feeble and powerless, that ostensibly wielded the Word of God but did so with about as much strength as a plastic sword. I am sure we have all endured some sermons that struck us with all the power of a gentle gust of wind.
And when the sermon falls flat, I suppose we all tend to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the preacher. Maybe he lacks skill or education or maybe he failed to give his sermon adequate time or preparation. Maybe he failed to pray earnestly in his study or failed to structure his week properly. If he’s the one who preached feebly, the fault must be his, right?
But who’s to say that, in the mind of God, the power of the preaching is entirely in the hands of the preacher? Who’s to say that the pastor’s task is to prepare the sermon while the congregation’s task is merely to prepare their own hearts to hear it?