What’s all this talk about “the power of preaching,” when the power is in the Word (inscribed and Incarnate) that is preached? I am too often more concerned about my preaching delivery than I am about preaching the Word who delivers. Bryan Chapell explains:
Christ remains active in his Word, performing divine tasks that one presenting the Word has no right or ability personally to assume.
These perspectives on the Word of God culminate in the ministry of the apostle Paul. The bookish missionary who was not known for his pulpit expertise nonetheless wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for … everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)…
The gospel’s force lies beyond the power of the preacher. Paul preaches without shame in his delivery skills because he trusts that the Spirit of God will use the Word the apostle proclaims to shatter the hardness of the human heart in ways no stage technique or philosophical construct can rival.
In some ways, the entire process seems ridiculous. Common sense rebels against claims that eternal destinies will change simply because we voice thoughts from an ancient text. When Paul commends the foolishness of preaching—not foolish preaching—he acknowledges the apparent senselessness of trying to transform attitudes, lifestyles, philosophical perspectives, and faith commitments with mere words about a once crucified rabbi (see 1 Cor. 1:21).
Yet preaching endures and the gospel spreads because the Holy Spirit uses puny human efforts as the conduit for the force of his own Word. By the blessing of God’s Spirit, the Word yet transforms (i.e., causes our hearts to love God and our wills to seek his will)…
When preachers perceive the power that the Word holds, confidence in their calling grows even as pride in their performance withers. We need not fear our ineffectiveness when we speak truths God has empowered to perform his purposes.
At the same time, acting as though our talents are responsible for spiritual change is like a messenger claiming credit for ending a war because he delivered the peace documents. The messenger has a noble task to perform, but he jeopardizes his mission and belittles the true victor with claims of personal achievement. Credit, honor, and glory for preaching’s effects belong to Christ alone because his Word alone saves and transforms.
~ Bryan Chapell in Christ-centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, pp. 28–29 (bold and italic emphases are mine)