Is There Fire In Your Belly?
By Rodney W. Francis
FOR OVER 40 years I have been actively involved in Christian ministry. During that time I've listened to hundreds of different preachers. Far too often I have been disappointed with the quality of some of their preaching. I have asked myself many times, "Am I too critical? Do I have a problem about certain preachings? Do I have a problem with listening to other preachers?" Then, when I look around the congregations and observe the lack of interest in what is being preached, I know it can't all be my problem.
Recently I "sat in" on a Pentecostal preacher. He said all the right things, but honestly, it was boring. I left the service with this question burning in my heart, "Where have all the fierypreachers gone?" It has continued to "stir" me to the point that I am putting pen to paper to share this article with my fellow preachers. My prayer is that it will be accepted as constructive criticism, so we can raise the standard of our preaching. I believe we have to continually seek to raise the standard of our preaching.
WE NEED MORE HOLY GHOST FIRE!
We need more "fire in our bellies!" Unless the message of God burns in the preacher's heart, it certainly will not catch alight in the listener's heart.
"Is not My Word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29 , KJV).
It was that fiery Word of God that got right into Jeremiah's bones. That fiery Word sustained the preacher/prophet during his times of discouragement (Jeremiah 20:9 ). It motivated, fuelled and fired him to keep yielding to the power of that Word!
John the Baptist preached and prophesied that Jesus would fill the believers with "the Holy Ghost and fire"! (Matthew 3:11 ). How much more, then, should His preachers be imparting that Holy Ghost fire when they preach? ". . . Who makes His ministers a flame of fire" (Hebrews 1:7 ).
GOD HAS CHOSEN PREACHING
Preaching is so important to fulfilling the purposes of God in the earth. It is His chosen way to communicate the truth of the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 1:21 puts it this way: " . . . it pleased God by the foolishness ("silliness, absurdity" Strong's) of preaching ("that which is heard") to save them that believe." The word "save" is "sozo" in the Greek, meaning "to save, i.e. deliver or protect: heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole" (Strong's). It means "to make sound, to save, preserve safe from danger, loss, or destruction. In a Christian sense, to save from death and judgment, (as the consequences of sin) and to bring in all positive blessing in the place of condemnation. To save from the penalty of death and destruction, (not merely to make happy), but to bestow everlasting life as the result of resurrection" (Bullinger's).
What an awesome responsibility we preachers have! Our preaching has the potential to totally transform the lives of those who will believe! Believe what? Who believe what you, the preacher, says! Therefore, we had better make very sure that we know how to clearly communicate the Gospel message to our hearers. We hold their keys to eternal life or eternal death!
PREACHERS MUST FIRST BE IMPACTED BY GOD
The only way preachers can really impact their listeners is for the message(s) they preach to have powerfully and personally impacted their own lives before they preach it to others. Theories are not good enough! Delivering "nice sermons to keep everyone happy" is not acceptable. They don't work. We have to be convinced of our message sufficiently enough for it to flow out of us to convict and convince our hearers. The "Holy Ghost and fire" preacher carries an authority in the spirit realm to make things happen. He/she doesn't have to rely on gimmickry to get the message across.
The Apostle Paul said, "And my preaching was very plain, not with a lot of oratory and human wisdom, but the Holy Spirit's power was in my words, proving to those who heard them that the message was from God. I did this because I wanted your faith to stand firmly upon God, not on man's great ideas" (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 , TLB)
As preachers, our calling is to bring the truth of God to the people in such a way it impacts their lives. It is more than "saying the right things." Preachers are to declare what God is saying right now as "present truth" (2 Peter 1:12 ). That's what the Holy Spirit is in us for; to speak to us and give us the revelation of God to speak to others. Preachers can choose to preach the "revelation Word" or the "learned Word." The great Bible men lived and preached by the "revelation Word." Unfortunately today, too many preachers rely on their Bible knowledge alone. Without the life and fire of the Holy Spirit on the Word we preach, the message will be lifeless. It will lack "punch" and authority.
PREACHERS CARRY THE GREATEST MESSAGE!
We preachers are not an "apology" for an historic religion! We are the carriers of the greatest message that will ever be told! It is so important, that people's eternal destinies are at stake! If they ignore what we say, they ignore it at their own peril and loss! On our part, we had better make sure our preaching has got some "growl," some "grunt," and some anointing. Good fruit should be coming from our preaching! I believe the call to preach is the highest vocation and honour in life. To think that God would trust preachers to impart to humanity "the words of eternal life" is a very privileged calling. (We will answer to God for the things we have preached.)
TIME FOR AN HONEST APPRAISAL
Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit we have been made "able ministers of the new covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:6 ). God has called us, commissioned us, and given us the ability to speak the life-transforming Word of God to all peoples. So, let us stop for a few minutes, dear Preacher, and ask yourself a few honest questions; then give yourself some honest answers:
PREACHING IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY
We preachers cannot blame the congregations for our preaching. That is between us and God. A number of years ago I got discouraged in preaching, because after 16 years of preaching in a small fellowship, I could not see any change in the lives of the "faithful few." When I "complained" to God about the ineffectiveness of my preaching, His response was to change me first - not the people! And He did! He taught me how to love and accept people. That brought such a transformation in my own life, that I am today a fulltime international itinerant preacher. I've seen scores of lives touched and changed as a result of the "messages" I take to churches, and individuals alike.
I do not ever want to be a dry, boring preacher. I say to some of my close friends now, "If ever you hear me become dry and boring, please tell me and I'll quit!"
One reason why so many are finding churches unattractive and are no longer attending them is because of the preaching. Preachers must stimulate, inspire, fire up, present God-birthed vision and opportunities to their listeners. Preachers need to be flowing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12 ) - and releasing their people to flow in them too.
Fire spreads! When preachers have "fire in their bellies," they are going to start fires in other people. Burning fires spread, even to the point of getting out of control!! (Wouldn"t that be wonderful!). Fan the flames, or the fire will go out. Once the fire goes out we are only left with a heap of smouldering ashes and they attract no one (only more ashes). Let's determine to be preachers that gather people through Holy Spirit-inspired preaching, rather than scattering them because there is no appeal, no attractiveness, no authority, no challenge, and therefore no life in what we preach.
Burn, Preacher! Burn for Jesus! It will set your world on fire!