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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Spirit-shy Christians

A second reason for the Spirit’s absence in preaching today has to do with the excesses and abuses attributed to the Spirit. Everything from laughing, crying, barking like a dog, meowing like a cat, passing out at the altar, jumping over pews, to transforming into Superman seems to be claimed as a true manifestation of the Spirit.

It’s no wonder that James Forbes in his 1989 work The Holy Spirit and Preaching coined the phrase “Spirit-shy Christians” to describe believers who find talking about the Spirit to be an intimidating and anxiety-filled experience.

Preachers are not exempt, by the way. James Montgomery Boice, a well-respected pastor and Bible expositor, confessed his own neglect of the Spirit in his preaching: “I had been in the ministry for about seven years when my morning preaching through Philippians, the Sermon on the Mount, and John eventually brought me to the discourses of John 14–16, in which the work of the Holy Spirit is described. Strange to say I had never done any serious preaching on the Holy Spirit before that time” (emphasis added).

Greg Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), 13–14.

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