“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” -Jn. 6.63
In comparison with the nature of preaching in centuries past, I would say that truly anointed proclamation is at an all-time low. Many fellowships have little value for true preaching and teaching, and the saints as a whole have mostly lost touch with the preciousness of speech to one another. New movements arise, encouraging more entertaining modes of proclamation, and the Church is inundated with programs, pre-packaged sermon illustrations, and a host of mere opinions. Scarcely do we hear a true voice which quickens the heart of the Church, creating and effecting, through grace-charged proclamation, a fuller vision of Jesus Christ.
Consider this story from David Ravenhill:
“Some of you are familiar with one of the great revivals: the revival in the Hebrides. Back in the late 1940s-early 1950s, this little group of islands experienced a powerful move of the Spirit of God, one of the purest revivals that we have seen, at least in my generation. Seventy-five percent of the people who were saved were converted outside the walls of the church.
In other words, God came down and saturated the community with His presence. People were up all night getting right with God. People would walk on the road and come under conviction of sin and fall down at the side of the road, repenting of their sin. They weren’t exposed to any preaching, just the Spirit of God that suddenly invaded the area. The revival was preceded by the earnest praying of several young men as well as two elderly women. Their cry was that God ‘would rend the heavens and come down.’
The people reported that five years after that revival you could count on one hand the number of people who had drifted away from God. Bars closed down; saloons closed down; dance halls closed down. The entire community was changed as a result of that revival.
One man whom God greatly used was a Presbyterian minister by the name of Duncan Campbell. Duncan Campbell was the key figure really. One night he had a dream, and in this dream he was walking into one of the small towns on the islands. As he approached the town, he noticed that there was a large crowd of people listening to somebody preaching the Word of God. As he got closer, he could hear the Word of God being proclaimed, but he didn’t recognize the preacher. After a while it dawned on him that this was no ordinary preacher; this was the devil.
Finally the crowd dispersed, and in his dream he went up to the devil and said, ‘You’re the devil, aren’t you?’
‘Yes I am,’ he replied.
Duncan Campbell then asked, ‘Why are you preaching the gospel? Why are you preaching the Word of God?’
And the devil responded, saying, ‘Duncan Campbell, don’t you know that the greatest weapon I have is the preaching of the Word of God without the anointing of the Spirit? You see, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ (Surviving the Anointing, pp.70-71; Destiny Image, 2007)
In the first months of the Hebrides Revival there was little preaching, but the Lord eventually raised Campbell up (among others) to proclaim the Word with a true anointing, and many communities were transformed by the power of the Gospel.
The gift of proclamation has been given to every saint on one level or another, for we all have the capacity to speak. Some will preach in larger settings, some will not. But we all have a calling to bear witness to the lost, and to speak the truth to one another in love. The question is not, “Where shall I speak,” or “What shall I speak,” but “How shall I speak?” We need a recovery of a true value for the gift of speech. Jesus’ words were spirit and life, which is something far beyond soulish talk or religious opinion. Dear saint, what is the substance of your speaking? I’m not asking if all of your conversation is religious or biblical. I’m asking what your source is. Is it you? your spiritual opinions? your personal paradigms?
Or is it “spirit and life?” The future of those listening to you may well depend on the answer to these questions.
“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God…” -1 Pet. 4.11a
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