I had been preparing to transition from a series called The Gospel and the Gospel to a new series on The Apostles Creed. I had done some preparation, broken down the summer preaching schedule, and begun to read several books on the topic. However, I sensed the Spirit directing me away from this. Not convenient. With one sermon on baptism between the series, I didn’t have a lot of time to make my decisi0n—go with Apostles Creed or follow these promptings. Despite the difficulty I chose the latter.
Richard Lovelace helped me make this decision. I had the great fortune of taking two classes from Lovelace before he retired from teaching as emeritus professor at Gordon-Conwell. If you haven’t read his opus Dynamics of Spiritual Life, order it today (and try to read it before finishing your second year of church planting). It is a historical, systematic theology of church and personal renewal rooted in Edwardsian theology. Lovelace had a profound effect on my approach to the Christian life. While debating which direction to go with the sermon series, I picked up Dynamics again and read the following:
Spirit-led Sermon Selection
What is true of the Holy Spirit’s role in the counseling procedure is equally important in the pulpit and teaching ministry of the pastor direct toward the whole congregation. If it is difficult to do spiritual surgery in the life of one parishioner in the counseling situation, its even more difficult to take aim at the spiritual needs of a group without explicit direction form the Holy Spirit. Many texts and many sermons may be appropriate in a general way to congregational needs, but the pastor who is working for congregational renewal will learn not to fix on any of these possibilities prematurely, until the quiet imprimatur of the Holy Spirit’s direction illuminates the thrust and strategy which his most strategic for spiritual release.
May we not cease to wait for the imprimpatur of the Spirit as we pastor his people.