This is the post I’ve always wanted to write, but never have because – until now – it could’ve been interpreted as self-serving. As I step away for a (graciously given) short planning sabbatical by Bridge elders, I want our church to turn into a place not primarily known for the preachers’ preaching, but for the congregation’s hearing. People are over-aware of the power an anointed preacher can have through a sermon; but by-and-large people are oblivious to the electric power an anointed congregation can have on a sermon. The quality of the preaching is hugely determined by the quality of the listening.
Here are 3 things a congregation can do to infuse spiritual power into the preaching…
Turn the auditorium into a “heating plant”. This story about Charles Spurgeon (often nicknamed the “Prince of Preachers”) might be my favorite…
Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.
Charles Spurgeon died claiming the otherworldly power that God unleashed through his preaching was a result of the hundreds of people who were praying during every service in the “heating plant”. Pray! Wake up on Sundays praying for the service and the preacher; arrive early and begin praying with expectation; pray during the sermon for “these dry bones to live.”
Let him hear the pages rustle. There is only one church in the New Testament called “noble” – Paul The Preacher called the Bereans noble because “they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” PREACHER SECRET: a thrilling adrenaline rush runs through a preacher’s veins when he hears Bible-pages rustling through the room as people “examine the Scriptures to see if what [we] said is true.” And I’d also guess that has a profound subconscious affect on everyone in the room.
Preach back to him. A lot of people mistakenly think preaching is one-way communication.
Preaching is intensely dynamic – preachers feed off the congregation. There are literally people – individual people – who I know if they’re in the room I’ll preach better because everything about them ‘preaches back’ to me they are hungry for the Word. There are also times when I have to consciously choose while preaching not to look in someone’s direction because it’s so dampening to watch them fall asleep on someone’s shoulder. To be blunt: predominately white churches need to learn from the black church here. A congregation can carry itself in such a way that it draws the most powerful preaching out of the preacher. When hundreds of people are leaned-forward, the room is full of nodding and audible ‘amens’, and there seems to be an electric anticipation pulsing through the room, it does something profound both to the soul of the preacher and souls of everyone in that sacred moment. Nehemiah–8-style, the people have “gathered as one man” and demanded to hear the word preached. Nod! Fix your gaze! Amen the man! Groan with eagerness! Preach back to him with everything you are, “Give us [prophetic] vision, lest we perish!” (Proverbs 29:18)