Morris H. Chapman was at the beginning of his ministry, preaching at various locations, when one Sunday at a rural Arkansas church he learned a lesson he has not forgotten.
While preaching that morning he noticed in the congregation a woman who had her head bowed. She did not look up, and her inattentiveness served as a distraction. After the service he approached her and asked, "Are you troubled about something?"
She answered: "You're preaching God's great truths with man's application."
Chapman said he was "stunned" and went back to the motel room that afternoon to prepare for that night's sermon. But he couldn't get his mind off the woman's words.
"I couldn't rest," he says now. "… My spirit was trembling. I finally got on my knees. I said, 'Lord, that's not what I want to be.'" He prayed that he "would not be someone who is just putting a little human twist on the Scripture."
He was preaching without passion.
Addressing the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 22, Chapman reached out to pastors who might find themselves in a similar spiritual situation.
"We are to preach under the anointing of His Holy Spirit," he said. "How devastating [it is] to stand in the pulpit to preach the unsearchable riches of our living Lord Jesus with empty hearts, void of joy."
Chapman reflected on Acts 1:8 — But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. Too many times, he said, pastors ignore the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in a reaction against those who have twisted biblical truths about the Spirit.
"Southern Baptists believe in the Holy Spirit, but we don't make much about the Holy Spirit," he said. "There's some reason for that biblically, because the Bible teaches us that God's Holy Spirit, as He works in our hearts, is not going to be pushing Himself on us. He will be saying, 'Look to Jesus.'"
But while the Holy Spirit points to Christ, He also empowers the believer for ministry, Chapman said. He noted that in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 the Apostle Paul connects preaching with the work of the Holy Spirit.
"As God-called preachers of the gospel we are compelled to ask ourselves if we are preaching Spirit-inspired, God-anointed sermons that lift the eyes of the weary to look upon our Savior and see His nail-pierced hands," he said. "… We must not forget He is the very presence of our God, our Lord, in our hearts today."
A pastor should prepare for his sermon considering the time his congregation will be spending. For example, a church with 200 members will be in a one-hour church service for 12,000 collective minutes, Chapman said.
"Have we grown so apathetic that we're wasting the congregation's time with our halfhearted efforts?" he asked. "Is the pastor more excited about his paycheck than he is about the anointing of God's Holy Spirit?"
Chapman urged pastors to look for inspiration in what God is doing around them: "Has anything occurred lately that can be explained only by the Holy Spirit of God working in the hearts of men? Certainly, salvation is among the greatest of what God does."
Chapman brought his point to bear on the work of the Southern Baptist Convention and specifically the SBC's Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative. He recounted how baptisms within the SBC have plateaued and Cooperative Program giving is on the "downtick." Those trends will reverse only with a mighty moving of the Holy Spirit, he said.
Speaking of the miraculous works of the book of Acts, Chapman said there "was no explanation for what was taking place."
"God, by His Spirit, enabled ordinary men and women to do and say things beyond their natural abilities," he said. "They became supernaturally empowered.
"… A part of what Empowering Kingdom Growth is about is the realization that there's little hope of anything happening in America until the Holy Spirit is allowed to move in a mighty way, and our own lives are transformed before the people who see us," he said.
SBC leaders are asking Southern Baptists to join in a new spiritual emphasis on the Kingdom of God. The theme is Empowering Kingdom Growth. Our vision is to seek first the King and His Kingdom.
More fully stated, Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) is an initiative designed to call individual Southern Baptists to renew their passion for the Lord Jesus and the reign of His Kingdom in their hearts, families, and churches from which God can forge a spiritual movement marked by holy living, sacrificial service, and global witness.
From the report of the Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force to the Southern Baptist Convention, June 11-12, 2002, St. Louis, Missouri.