Is the Church today relying too heavily upon persuasive talk to proclaim the message of the Kingdom of God?
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul gives an appeal and warning to the church of Corinth. He calls out their arrogance and wants to discern how these people are talking, and also what power they are talking with.
Why does Paul want to discern what power they have? Because it is possible to say the “right” things and do the “right” things, yet have a powerless ministry.
The thing that gives power to our ministry is the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God is proclaimed not by giving lip service to the power of God, but by demonstrating the power of God through the ministry of the Spirit. It’s possible to talk about the healing power of Jesus, yet never step out and pray for healing. It’s possible to talk about the radical generosity of the early church, yet never give with a personal cost. It’s possible to stand by a doctrinal belief in the Holy Spirit, yet fail to recognise and obey His promptings and leadings in your life.
Unfortunately, I believe we are in an age in the Western world where our abundant resources and access to information make it too easy to revel in our own knowledge of God, yet fail to put it into practice and live by it.
I’ve been challenged in this through preaching opportunities. More and more, I am realising how easy it is to rely on “talk” in this area. To get up and give a good, biblically-sound message yet speak with no power. As a friend of mine says, “you leak what you carry”. The most important thing I can do for my preaching preparation is to be filled with the Spirit; to be aware of how he is speaking and working in me. If I am filled with Him, I will leak Him. It is the Spirit that gives power to my words as I speak.
There have been times where I have relied on persuasive words, my own knowledge and strength, and not given space in my heart to let the Holy Spirit speak into the message I am giving. The end result is arrogance. Pointing people to personal giftedness rather than Jesus. I have come to realise that when I have been impacted most by sermons, my eyes were left on Jesus, not the preacher; left with an overwhelming sense of what Jesus was saying to me personally. When we proclaim the Kingdom of God with power, people will simply see Jesus.
As a starting point, we may need to ask the question, what is it I am leaking and how is that affecting my ministry?
Good theology and strong biblical understanding are crucial to our ministry, and help us understand what Kingdom we are proclaiming! Yet, we can become arrogant talking and sharing about such things but not imitating Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
Jon Tyson captures this idea powerfully when he uses the phrase “Theology that can't be dismissed, power that can't be denied”. My husband and I have come to realise the necessity of valuing and practicing both these elements in our ministry.
Paul gives this word to the church of Corinth in love and with a gentle spirit. And in the same way, I urge you to reflect on this profound truth that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
To ask the question, where are we becoming arrogant in our talk? Not so that the end result is shame or guilt, but because there is more. The Kingdom we have inherited is of power, and that power is seen as we are filled with the Spirit, taking risky faith filled steps of obedience, demonstrating the acts of Jesus in the everyday moments of life.