Among all the topics tossed about in discussions of homiletics-outlines and delivery and illustrations and such-one of the most critical yet least considered is the role of the Holy Spirit in the preaching task. Almost any preacher would acknowledge the importance of the Spirit in this area, yet little of the literature in homiletics pays more than a cursory nod to the topic.

That is why Greg Heisler’s book Spirit-Led Preaching is so important. Heisler, an assistant professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, offers a comprehensive, biblical evaluation of the role the Holy Spirit plays in the preparation and presentation of the preached Word of God. Heisler begins with a recognition of the renewed interest in biblical exposition in recent years, then indicates that his own book is “a call issued to preachers, pastors and teachers of homiletics to recover the Holy Spirit for expository preaching in the same way we have recovered the biblical text.” He asserts that “the preacher must come to see preaching as the Spirit’s ministry, not the preacher’s own ministry. The Spirit is the one who does the preaching through the proclamation of the Word.”

Initially, Heisler discusses the current state of preaching and why the role of the Spirit seems to get so little attention. He includes a powerful observation by A.J. Gordon: “Our generation is rapidly losing its grip upon the supernatural; and as a consequence, the pulpit is rapidly dropping to the level of the platform.

And this decline is due, more than anything else, to ignoring the Holy Spirit as the supreme inspirer of preaching. We would rather see a great orator in the pulpit, forgetting that the least expounder of the Word, when filled with the Spirit, is greater than he.”

Heisler proceeds to discuss biblical teachings about the Spirit’s role in preaching, specifically in analyzing Old Testament prophetic preaching and Paul’s preaching in the New Testament. He includes chapters on the illumination of the Spirit, developing a proper theology of Word and Spirit, then deals with the role of the Spirit in the preacher’s life, and in the preparation and presentation of the sermon.

The book concludes with a valuable discussion of the place of the Spirit’s anointing in the preaching task. Too often, preachers sense a lack of power due to the absence of dependence on the Holy Spirit. Encouraging a shift in terms from “anointing” to “empowerment,” Heisler stresses that “the Spirit’s empowerment for preaching grows out of Spirit-filled living. If the preacher’s life is not characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, then his preaching will not be characterized by the Spirit’s power. The Spirit must first mark the preacher’s life before he marks his preaching.”

Great preaching contains many elements – a commitment to the biblical text, an understanding of the congregation, and a sense of urgency, among others – but the power of preaching stands or falls on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Greg Heisler has provided an outstanding resource to those who preach in reminding us of why and how the Spirit makes a difference in preaching.

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