WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Greg Heisler was interested in how the Holy Spirit affects preaching when he was in seminary.
His interest in the subject led him to write his Ph.D. dissertation on “A Spirit-Driven Methodology of Expository Preaching” in 2003 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
The dissertation critiqued his Ph.D. instructor’s definition of expository preaching, which did not include the Holy Spirit.
That instructor, Daniel Akin, rewrote his own definition after agreeing with Heisler’s dissertation. A couple of years later, Akin became president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and invited Heisler to join the faculty as assistant professor of preaching and speech.
Four years later, Heisler has completed his first book from the dissertation, titled “Spirit-Led Preaching,” released by B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He never dreamed that his dissertation would turn into an award-winning book, but PreachingToday.com named it its “Book of the Year” earlier this year in the category focused on preachers’ souls.
“I was told in an e-mail a week ahead of it being announced,” Heisler said. “I didn’t know it was up for an award. Brian Larson [editor of PreachingToday.com] asked me to do workshops on it. He had kind words to say about the book and how it has helped his preaching.”
Spirit-Led Preaching examines how the Holy Spirit illuminates and empowers the preacher, opens the hearts of the hearers, and applies the message to their lives. To ignore the Holy Spirit’s role in sermon preparation and delivery is a considerable oversight, Heisler said.
“The Word becomes flesh in us and is indwelling,” he said. “The Word will not pass with power through us until it has first dwelt with power in us.”
While young preachers in his classes wanting quick pieces of information to take to the pulpit, Heisler said he hopes his book helps them focus on what’s truly important in preaching.
“I call it the Crock-Pot saturation factor,” he said. “A microwave has very quick results with the least amount of effort. A Crock-Pot is based on simmering the food in such a way that the flavor comes out, the meal is tastier and you get the sense it has spent the day saturating and soaking. The result is a really great tasting meal.
“In preaching, a lot of students who show up in the classroom want the microwave approach,” he said. “I’m here, give me three quick ways, seven quick steps, five key principles, and I’ll go out and do it. Mechanics are the nuts and bolts where you put together the introduction, illustration, application and conclusion.”
But, Heisler noted, “It’s powerless if the foundation of the dynamic is not in place. I can’t sit over you in your study and make you pray and make you fast and make you humble yourself before the Lord. I can’t make you broken before the Lord. That’s something God will do to you. If you do not have it, you miss the entire power cord of preaching.”
Heisler is pleased with feedback he has received about the book, including its use at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Liberty University.
“Pastors have been aware something has been missing and have said it’s been a great help. People have thanked me for writing a book that emphasizes the spiritual role in preaching in a way that has not been done comprehensively.”
Jerry Higgins is a writer based in Raleigh, N.C. Greg Heisler’s “Spirit-Led Preaching” is available at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at www.lifewaystores.com.