One of the subtle dangers in preaching is for the message to be more soulish than spiritual. This is what happens when human wisdom runs the day: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:15 ESV).
It seems that preparing and delivering sermons has become a science these days. The emphasis is placed on communication skills instead of spiritual depth. Instead of bringing a word from the Lord, and depending on the Holy Spirit to move in confirmation, we rely on tricks, techniques, and gimmicks. If we say the right things, at the right time, and in the right way, we can expect a certain response from the congregation. Instead of aiming for true transformation we often preach to get a momentary reaction from the crowd. The long-term affects of this soulish preaching produces little lasting fruit.
Human beings are made up of three basic parts: body, soul, and spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The mind and the emotions are in the realm of the soul. The human spirit, after being born again, is the aspect of our being that is able to fellowship with God and grow in Him. Soulish preaching is unspiritual preaching. That is, it primarily affects the intellect or emotions, but does not penetrate to reach the spirit. While we are not to ignore the mind or emotions, neither are we to make them primary.
A pacifier gives the sensation of feeding without providing any actual nourishment. In the same way, soulish preaching pacifies but doesn’t feed. There may be information or inspiration, but no impartation. It may educate or entertain, but it doesn’t edify or equip. It may stimulate or stir, but it doesn’t stick.
So while preaching to the mind brings information and preaching to the emotions brings inspiration, neither produce lasting transformation! The results of this soulish preaching are devastating because the people of God do not get the spiritual nourishment that they need. Meanwhile, since the soul has been stimulated, there is a false sense of spiritual fulfillment similar to when a baby with a pacifier forgets that he is hungry.
The preaching that feeds the spirit and enables true transformation is the Word of God anointed by the Spirit of God, proclaimed with authority through a consecrated vessel of God. This has nothing to do with using a particular preaching style or having a certain type of personality. It is a matter of heart, motives, and true spiritual substance. It is a matter of depth and relationship with God.
We must learn to detect the subtle difference between soulish and spiritual preaching. And we must not settle for the cheap substitute of soulish preaching. It is time for preachers who “stand in the counsel of God” and bring fresh manna from above. It is time for preachers who prepare by praying, seeking heaven for a word from God. It is time for preachers who rely on the Holy Spirit–not human and worldly methods–to get the job done.
Only this type of Spirit-empowered preaching will bring the lasting fruit that God is looking for!