The Spirit In Pentecostal Preaching

The Spirit In Pentecostal Preaching

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Pneuma 35 (2013) 199-219

The Spirit in Pentecostal Preaching: A Constructive Dialogue with Haddon W. Robinson’s and Charles T. Crabtree’s Theology of Preaching

Josh P. S. Samuel*

McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

[email protected]


This article contrasts Haddon W. Robinson’s Biblical Preaching with Charles T. Crabtree’s Pentecostal Preaching and provides an analysis to contribute to a Pentecostal theology of preach – ing. It shows the importance of maintaining faithfulness to the Spirit’s past and present work for preaching, reflected in Robinson’s and Crabtree’s emphases. Preachers must diligently study the written word — inspired by the Spirit — in order to appropriate it best for the preached word, while also remaining sensitive to the Spirit’s present leading. The article also goes beyond the two authors’ emphases, revealing the value of the Spirit’s work for preaching among the congregation, in the future, and within the triune God.


Pentecostal preaching, Scripture, Holy Spirit, Haddon W. Robinson, Charles T. Crabtree


There are some Pentecostal preachers who not only mishandle Scripture in their sermons, but also rely on hype to generate responses that appear to be supernatural; regrettably, these same preachers often claim that it is the Spirit who leads them to do what they do. I address the sometimes deficient under- standing of the work of the Spirit among Pentecostal preachers here. This paper offers an analysis of some important issues related to the work of the Spirit in preaching among Pentecostals in North America — with implications for evangelicals and charismatics. With that end in mind, I compare and contrast

* I must thank Joyce M. Samuel, Michael P. Knowles, Steven M. Studebaker, and the Pneuma reviewers for their constructive feedback on this essay.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013

DOI: 10.1163/15700747-12341314



J. P. S. Samuel / Pneuma 35 (2013) 199-219

two approaches to preaching: that of Haddon W. Robinson in Biblical Preach- ing, which represents a popular evangelical approach to preaching, and that of Charles T. Crabtree in Pentecostal Preaching, which represents a Classical Pentecostal leader’s approach to preaching.1 Both works include valuable thoughts on preaching, but they also contain some revealing limitations. On the one hand, Robinson underscores the value of the written word for the preached word but indirectly devalues the present work of the Spirit in preach- ing. On the other hand, Crabtree underscores the present work of the Spirit in preaching, and although he emphasizes the authority of the written word, his thoughts on how preachers must appropriate Scripture for preaching is ironi- cally brief. In this essay, I show the importance of maintaining faithfulness to the Spirit’s past and present work for preaching. Preachers must diligently study the written word — inspired by the Spirit — in order to appropriate it best for the preached word, while also remaining sensitive to the Spirit’s pres- ent leading in the preparation for preaching and the preaching event. But I press this issue beyond Robinson’s and Crabtree’s emphases, maintaining that preaching within Pentecostalism must also show greater attention to the Spir- it’s work among the congregation, in the future, and within the triune God.

Two preliminary remarks are necessary for understanding the framework I use for this essay. First, I must explain why I use Crabtree and Robinson as dialogue partners here. Although other works on Pentecostal preaching could be used for this discussion, a focus on Crabtree is helpful because he represents a traditional approach among Pentecostals, notably as someone who has been a pastor and denominational leader within the Assemblies of God.2 I focus on Robinson’s views on preaching for this essay because his work, Biblical Preach- ing, has been used frequently within Bible colleges and seminaries attended by Pentecostals and is generally influential among evangelical and Pentecostal preachers.3 Robinson has been a significant influence upon authors of various other books on preaching being used in homiletics classes today — which the

1 Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001). Unless noted, all subsequent citations refer to this edition. Crab- tree, Pentecostal Preaching: Empowering Your Pulpit with the Holy Spirit (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2003).

2 For example, Ray H. Hughes, Pentecostal Preaching (Cleveland, TN: Pathway, 2004). “Dr. Charles T. Crabtree Biography,” n.p. Accessed January 1, 2012.

3 “The Heresy of Application: An Interview with Haddon Robinson.” Leadership Journal 28, no. 4(Fall 1997): 20. Accessed Febru- ary 9, 2012.


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authors themselves have admitted.4 This discussion is limited in that it focuses on Western approaches and challenges for preaching, because both authors are white leaders from the United States; nevertheless, it has relevance for any- one who is concerned with preaching. Further, I limit this discussion to just two approaches to preaching because it allows for a sustained analysis in a brief essay.

Second, I must explain the framework and categories I use throughout. This discussion initially focuses on the Spirit’s past and present work for preaching in order to follow the two contrasting views related to the Spirit’s role in preach- ing found in both authors. I use language that focuses on the Spirit’s work because this type of analysis is important for Pentecostals who can often falsely assume that they are aware of all the issues related to the Spirit’s work in preaching. Finally, although I could use various categories to examine this sub- ject theologically, I use three broad categories — namely, God’s role in preach- ing, preparing for preaching, and the preaching event.5 I believe that God is actively involved in the process of preaching, and that this distinguishes preaching from being merely a speech.6 The category focusing on the prepara – tion for preaching underscores the response to God’s call to preach. The preaching event includes all that is involved in the sermon being delivered and what follows. After comparing Crabtree and Robinson, I offer a constructive integration of their two approaches, which points toward a more robust theol- ogy of Pentecostal preaching. I now turn to the initial category for exploration, God’s role in preaching.

Theology of Preaching in the Works by Crabtree and Robinson

God’s Role in Preaching

Crabtree emphasizes the present work of the Spirit in preaching. He admits that even those who are not Pentecostals receive at salvation “an enduement”

4 See Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005), 13; and Kenton C. Anderson, Choosing to Preach: A Comprehensive Introduction to Sermon Options and Structures (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 11, 38.

5 See Richard Lischer, “Introduction: The Promise of Renewal,” in The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present, ed. Richard Lischer (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), xiii-xvi; Thomas G. Long, The Witness of Preaching, 2nded. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005), 15-18.

6 For example, 2 Corinthians 5:20.



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of the Holy Spirit.7 Thus, the Spirit of God enables preachers who are not Pen – tecostal. He does, however, argue that there is a “special enduement of power” from the Spirit that the disciples received in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost.8 In Crabtree’s thought, this “special enduement” refers to Spirit baptism. The Spirit provides power to witness in preaching.

What, then, does Crabtree’s view of the Spirit’s power to witness in preach- ing lead to? He believes that the Spirit empowers preachers to experience supernatural results. This relates to “overcoming the spirit of this age,” sensitiv- ity to the Spirit’s leading so one may respond immediately and spontaneously when necessary, the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, and miracles.9 One of the most consistent themes throughout his work relates to the importance of preaching that witnesses to Jesus Christ. Though Classical Pentecostals are noted for their emphasis on Spirit baptism, he writes that “[t]he only reason the Holy Spirit baptism should be emphasized is to emphasize Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”10

Crabtree also emphasises the authority of the written word, which he describes as inspired by the Spirit, inerrant, and infallible. He explains that “Scripture proceeds from God and is therefore invested with divinity that makes it as authoritative and efficient as a word orally spoken by God directly to us.”11 This high view of Scripture leads him to be cautious against scholarship that questions the authority of Scripture.12

There are a few key implications of Crabtree’s thoughts on God’s role in preaching. First, since the message of the preached word is primarily about Jesus Christ — encountering and believing in him — Crabtree believes that the goal of preaching is a personal relationship with Christ.13 And while the Spirit plays an active role in preaching that involves a supernatural dimension to preaching, the Spirit in preaching is primarily focused on pointing people to Jesus Christ so that they can know him personally.

We now turn our attention to Robinson’s understanding of God’s role in preaching. Robinson explains that “God speaks through the Bible,” and he views the Bible as “the major tool of communication by which [God] addresses

 7 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 30. 8 Ibid., 31.

9 Ibid., 35-41.

10 Ibid., 35.

11  Ibid., 46-47.

12 Ibid., 46-49.

13 For example, ibid., 29.


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individuals today.”14 Robinson carries this over to his thoughts on preaching: “Through the preaching of the Scriptures, God encounters men and women to bring them to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15) and to richness and ripeness of Christian character (vv. 16-17).”15 Thus, two important points about God’s role in preach – ing are, first, that God has spoken through Scripture, and second, in order for a preacher to uphold what God has communicated, he or she must preach “the Scriptures.” It is important to note that Robinson connects his thoughts on the role of Scripture in preaching to 2 Timothy 3:15-17, a passage explaining that the Spirit inspired the Scriptures; this shows his focus on the Spirit’s prior work and subsequent present significance for preaching. But he also explains the Spirit’s present work in preaching.

In Robinson’s definition of expository preaching, he points out the role of the Spirit in preaching. “Expository preaching,” Robinson explains,“is the com- munication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a histori- cal, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers.”16 In the Spirit’s first application to the preacher, he explains that “[t]his places God’s dealing with the preacher at the center of the process.”17 This is so important that he explains that “God is more interested in developing messengers than messages, and because the Holy Spirit confronts us primarily through the Bible, we must learn to listen to God before speaking for God.”18 God’s role in preaching is critical, as the Spirit must first deal with the preacher and subsequently with the congregation for effective preach- ing through Scripture. The issue that remains, however, is how, in Robinson’s thought, a preacher remains available to the Spirit for preaching — a critical issue to be discussed following Crabtree’s views on preparing for preaching.

Preparing for Preaching

Crabtree discusses the importance of the preacher’s lifestyle throughout his book; in relation to the other elements of preaching he describes, this is an extensive discussion. A few important recurring themes are authority, Spirit baptism, and being continually filled with the Spirit.

14 Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 20. 15 Ibid., 20.

16 Ibid., 21. Emphasis is Robinson’s. 17 Ibid., 25.

18 Ibid., 27.



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First, the authority of the preacher is one of Crabtree’s key themes. Preach- ers, he explains, receive authority from God when they respond to the “inter- nal” work of God through the Spirit rather than to any other “external stimuli” such as tradition or being culturally relevant.19 “Ultimate loyalty must be to the living God, not to a tradition kept alive through an external program or pro- cess. ‘The letter kills [even the most beautifully structured and appealing], but the Spirit gives life.’”20 Like Jesus, who received his divine mission and author – ity from the Father, preachers derive their commission and authority to preach from God; furthermore, this authority is maintained through prayer and fresh encounters with God.21 An underlying thought throughout Crabtree’s book is that pleasing people rather than God undermines the preacher’s authority, since the preacher subsequently loses his or her authority from God and the respect of the people.22

Finally, Crabtree’s high view of Scripture leads him to maintain that preach- ers who have been equipped and ordained by God have a responsibility to study and declare the truths drawn from Scripture.23 Authority for the sermon, then, is derived from Scripture, while authority for the preacher is derived from an internal work of God. Although there is a dual element to the issue of author- ity in preaching in Crabtree’s thought, he gives more emphasis to the internal work of God upon the preacher for authority, rather than to the external authority of Scripture as the source of authority in preaching.

Second, Crabtree emphasizes that Spirit baptism is a gift that any Christian can receive by faith within the context of praise and prayer, and the initial evidence of this gift is speaking in tongues.24 There is a difference, he argues, between a preacher who has received Spirit baptism and one who has not.25 Those who have not experienced Spirit baptism are like the disciples on whom Christ “breathed” and to whom he said, “Receive the Spirit” prior to the Day of Pentecost.26 Jesus gave his disciples an “enduement of the Spirit” so that they were “ordained and empowered to preach” the gospel.27 Crabtree argues that Billy Graham’s ministry is an example of this level of the Spirit’s reception in a

19 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 14-19. 20 Ibid., 15. Commentary is Crabtree’s. 21  Ibid., 14-19.

22 Ibid., 6, 21, 98, 130, etc.

23 Ibid., 47.

24 Ibid., 164-66.

25 Ibid., 27.

26 Ibid., 30. John 20:21-23; Acts 2:4. 27 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 30-31.


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preacher; he asserts that “the Spirit of God has attended his preaching, drawing thousands into the Kingdom by convicting, saving, and baptizing into the body of Christ.”28 How, then, does Crabtree explain the difference that Spirit bap – tism makes for preaching?

Crabtree states that Jesus expected the disciples to wait and receive “a spe- cial enduement of power from on high” — the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He explains that when Jesus told his disciples to wait for the Spirit, the disciples could have resisted since they had already experienced an “enduement” of the Spirit — but they did not resist since they had not received this “special endue- ment” of the Spirit. Crabtree identifies at least two linked implications of Spirit baptism for Pentecostal preaching. First, “[w]ith divine authority, the Pente- costal pulpit will reveal Jesus Christ as He is, through the power of the Spirit resulting in living revelation and truth.”29 Second, this revelation of Jesus Christ “will also be accompanied by the living works of Christ in supernatural demon- stration” — miracles.30 Crabtree’s rationale for believing that supernatural results follow preachers who have experienced Spirit baptism depends on his connection of two of Christ’s teachings. He links Christ’s promise to his disci- ples that they would experience “greater works” when he went to the Father with his admonition that they would be better off when he left so that the Spirit would come and they could experience Spirit baptism.31 Thus, through Spirit baptism the preacher can experience “greater works,” such as salvation and the supernatural, through the work of the Spirit in his or her ministry.32 Finally, Crabtree stresses that the preacher is responsible for maintaining a healthy spiritual life. Since he argues that Spirit baptism is an “initial” one-time experience, he emphasizes the need to be “continually filled with the Spirit.”33 This goal, he explains, “can be met only by first dying daily to oneself and then being renewed inwardly through the work of the Spirit.”34 He describes five dimensions that are necessary to be a “Spirit-filled” preacher: (1) a Spirit-filled character, displaying the fruit of the Spirit; (2) a Spirit-filled mind, since “the truth of God can be understood only through the lens of the Spirit”; (3) being in continual communication with God — speaking in tongues and hearing from God “through the instrumentality of the Spirit”; (4) Spirit-filled direction,

28 Ibid., 31. 29 Ibid., 33. 30 Ibid., 35. 31  Ibid., 36. 32 Ibid., 36-37. 33 Ibid., 110. 34 Ibid., 111.



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whereby the Spirit guides the preacher before and during the sermon; and (5) expecting signs and wonders.35

Crabtree also affirms the need for education and good exegesis. He encour- ages preachers to study Scripture first within the context of the text with the Holy Spirit as guide, and then to confer with other resources. He includes other elements, such as creating an outline, a manuscript, and using illustrations. Ironically, his approach in studying Scripture for the preached word is minimal in relation to his emphasis that Scripture is authoritative and foundational to preaching.36

While Crabtree devotes an extensive amount of his discussion to the person of the preacher and his or her responsibilities, Robinson does not. Robinson’s definition of expository preaching, provided earlier, reveals that the biblical concept must shape the sermon, preacher, and congregation.37 Two themes in Robinson’s work on which I focus here are authority and the role of the Spirit in the life of the preacher.

Robinson states that “[u]ltimately the authority behind expository preach- ing resides not in the preacher but in the biblical text.”38 The emphasis is less on the internal work of God in the preacher, as we find in Crabtree’s work, and more on the Scriptures, which derive their authority from God, who inspired them. According to Robinson, in order to gain authority for preaching, the preacher must focus on rightly understanding Scripture. Robinson outlines several ways in which the preacher should appropriate Scripture for the sermon.

The idea for the sermon “is derived from and transmitted through a histori- cal, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context.”39 The preacher must search “for the objective meaning of a passage through their understand- ing of the language, backgrounds, and setting of the text.”40 Determining the passage, understanding the context of a biblical passage, and making use of resources such as lexicons, concordances, grammars, word-study books, Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, and bibliographies, are just some of the tools for understanding Scripture.41

35 Ibid., 112, 115, 118-21. 36 Ibid., 43-57.

37 Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 21. 38 Ibid., 24.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid.

41  For example, ibid., 51-72.


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The study of the passage, however, must go beyond the objective meaning to developing the “big idea” of the potential sermon, the sermon idea, the sermon outline, illustrations, and applications. Robinson’s discussion on constructing an expository sermon takes up much of his work — approximately 168 out of 245 pages. Those sections that do not explain how to construct a sermon are spent mostly on defining and making a case for expository preaching. Explicit discussion on the Spirit’s role in the process of sermon preparation is limited and thereby reveals that authority in preaching comes from an understanding of the Bible — which was inspired by the Spirit, so that the past work of the Spirit is emphasized.42 What Robinson does say about the present work of the Spirit follows.

Robinson believes that the application derived from the study of the passage of Scripture must first be applied to the preacher’s life. He explains that “[t]his places God’s dealing with the preacher at the center of the process.”43 The preacher prepares for the sermon by studying Scripture, and it is during this process that he or she can hear from God through the work of the Spirit.44 Robinson highlights the role of studying Scripture and the Spirit’s role in pre- paring preachers: “[a]s we study our Bible, the Holy Spirit studies us.”45 This not only sums up Robinson’s thoughts on the preacher’s preparation and avail- ability to the Spirit’s present work; it is all that he says on this subject. We now turn our attention to the preaching event.

The Preaching Event

Crabtree encourages the use of three types of sermons based on Jesus’ three communication styles: personal conversations, “teaching truth,” which he describes as “Bible teaching and exposition preaching,” and “proclaiming truth.”46 Though he does not adequately distinguish between the second and third types, his approach acknowledges variety in preaching.

In addition, Crabtree highlights the spontaneity of Pentecostal preaching, which relates to the leading of the Spirit. He explains that preachers must be sensitive to the moving of the Spirit, so that they can respond spontaneously when necessary, even if it means stopping the sermon to pray for healing.47

42 For example, ibid., 89-90.

43 Ibid., 25.

44 Ibid., 27.

45 Ibid., 26.

46 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 67-69. 47 Ibid., 39.



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While Crabtree believes that orders of service and manuscripts are helpful, they should only be “guides, not rules” in light of “spiritual need and warfare.”48 The most important part in the act of preaching, according to Crabtree, is the results. This includes salvation — “the greatest of miracles” — and the supernatural.49 If you “[t]ake the supernatural out of Pentecost . . .” he explains, “. . . you have no defining element that sets it apart from any other evangelical entity.”50The experience of Spirit baptism, the gifts of the Spirit, healing, and miracles should be expected. In sum, Crabtree allows for freedom when it comes to the method of preaching; however, the context of preaching must be one of sensitivity to the Spirit and an expectation for the supernatural.

We now turn our attention to Robinson’s understanding of the preaching event. Robinson states that after the Holy Spirit applies the biblical concept to the preacher, the Spirit may then apply the biblical concept through the preacher to the hearers in preaching.51 While depending upon the Spirit, a preacher “aims to confront, convict, convert, and comfort men and women through the proclamation of biblical concepts.”52 Robinson does not, however, expand on how one might depend on the Spirit while preaching. Since he gives no indication that the content of the sermon can or should change during the act of preaching, preparing the sermon is critical. Preachers have a responsibil- ity to provide effective application that deals with both theology and ethics, by probing relationships between the biblical world and the contemporary world.53

Robinson devotes an entire chapter to helping the preacher with delivery style. He explains that “[t]he effectiveness of our sermons depends on two fac- tors: what we say and how we say it. Both are important. Apart from life-related, biblical content, we have nothing worth communicating; but without skillful delivery, we will not get that content across to a congregation.”54 “In order of significance,” he writes, “the ingredients making up the sermon are thought, arrangement, language, voice, and gesture. In priority of impressions, however, the order is reversed. Gestures and voice emerge as the most obvious and determinative part of preaching.”55 In this section on delivery, Robinson

48 Ibid., 40.

49 Ibid., 29.

50 Ibid., 135.

51  Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 21, 27. 52 Ibid., 39.

53 Ibid., 29, 140-62.

54 Ibid., 201.

55 Ibid., 201-2.


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frequently relies on communication studies. This should not be surprising since his Ph.D. is in speech communication.56 Ironically, however, in a later section he explains that only Christ through his Spirit can meet the “hungers of an entire congregation” since “[p]reaching is ultimately His work.”57

Analysis of Crabtree’s and Robinson’s Works for Pentecostals

One of the initial thoughts one may have when comparing Crabtree’s and Robinson’s works is the difference in their book titles: Pentecostal Preaching and Biblical Preaching. In Crabtree’s work, the emphasis is on preaching being Pentecostal, that is, on the present work of the Spirit in preaching. Robinson, on the other hand, emphasizes the biblical nature of preaching, that is, the past work of the Spirit inspiring Scripture, so that the written word is the authority in preaching. Although both authors include elements of the other’s emphases, whether it is the ongoing work of the Spirit or the past work of the Spirit in the inspiration of the written word, they nevertheless underscore different ele- ments in preaching that bring authority and effectiveness to the act of preach- ing. The following is my analysis of Robinson’s and Crabtree’s works, with a view toward contributing to a Pentecostal theology of preaching; I will also include other authors’ views to bear upon this subject.

Robinson’s Biblical Preaching

It may be surprising, but Robinson never explicitly suggests that the preacher should “pray” about the sermon. I think he assumes that preachers who read his book already have a vital spirituality and will pray in coordination with his emphasis on studying the Bible, when he explains that “the Holy Spirit studies us.”58 Studying the Bible is undoubtedly critical for one’s spiritual growth, but if limited to this one practice, it is insufficient. Since he is coming from an evan- gelical context, he may regard it as unnecessary to delve into spiritual disci- plines, beyond the study of Scripture, that may be assumed within his context. One’s theology, however, is expressed not just by what is included, but also by what is excluded. For this reason, Robinson’s work suffers from a lack of empha- sis on the spirituality that is vital for a preacher, apart from the study of Scrip- ture. This approach seems to derive from his views on the issue of authority:

56 Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 1st ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980). 57 Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 223.

58 Ibid., 26.



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it derives primarily from Scripture, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that the preacher must be a dedicated student of Scripture.

Through the written word we encounter the revelation of Jesus Christ and his redemptive work, but without an emphasis on the present work of the Spirit in preaching, “biblical” preaching can become sterile. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew the written word, but they were wrong in their understanding of the word; people need to be illuminated by the Spirit in order to comprehend the word, and an emphasis on yielding to the Spirit’s present work for preach- ing is critical.59

Greg Heisler acknowledges that evangelicals have typically neglected the work of the Spirit in preaching to avoid being labeled a charismatic or Pente- costal, while charismatics caricature evangelicals as a group focused on an intellectual faith merely based upon propositions.60 He explains that “[a] cor – rect biblical theology of pneumatology and bibliology must drive and under- gird any methodology of homiletics.”61 “The Spirit-driven methodology of expository preaching,” he states, “posits that the Spirit, the word, and the preacher must all testify to Jesus Christ in unison during the actual preparation and proclamation of the sermon if the preacher is ever going to preach with power.”62 Heisler rightly includes the Spirit’s work in all aspects of preaching. As with Crabtree and Robinson, the focus of the message must be Jesus Christ. 63 Recognizing the ongoing dual role of Scripture and the Spirit for preaching is critical, since Jesus himself stated that Scripture and the Spirit bear witness to himself.64

While Heisler’s understanding of the relationship between the Spirit, word, and preacher is helpful, it, too, is limited. Heisler refuses to dialogue with “popular charismatic” approaches to the Spirit’s work because of excesses within this movement. Among the excesses he mentions are those who breathe on people to be “slain in the Spirit” and formulaic approaches to God that end up making more of individuals than of God.65 This, however, seems to lead to

59 See 1 Corinthians 2:9-11.

60 See Greg Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery (Nashville: B and H, 2007); and “Clark Kent or Superman? A Case for a Spirit-Driven Methodology of Expository Preaching,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Academy of Homiletics, 2004. Accessed December 12, 2009.

61  Heisler, “Clark Kent or Superman?”

62 Ibid.

63 Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching, 21.

64 John 5:39-40; 15:26.

65 Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching, 127.


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his unwillingness to deal with a Pentecostal approach to preaching that includes the place of the gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, words of knowl- edge and wisdom, and miracles. A few Pentecostal scholars have highlighted the need to be more intentional about including the work of the Spirit in preaching.66

It should be noted, however, that Robinson supervised a thesis on preaching by a Canadian Classical Pentecostal, Fred Penney. Like Heisler, Penney posits the failure of texts on homiletics to include substantial thought on the role of the Spirit, favoring a more intellectual approach in order to understand the text of Scripture and the incorporation of good communication theory. Penney argues for the need to include a “spiritual warfare cosmology,” noting that the context for preaching is charged with invisible realities, such as the kingdom of darkness, which requires the need for the power of the Spirit in preaching.67 That Robinson would supervise such a thesis appears at least to reveal a sym- pathetic view toward this Pentecostal impulse in preaching.

Another issue concerns Robinson’s emphasis on the delivery of the sermon. His approach overstates the importance of nonverbal communication. When he argues that “[g]estures and voice emerge as the most obvious and deter- minative part of preaching,” he appears to betray his own words — a later addition in his second edition — that preaching is God’s work and only Christ through his Spirit can effectively feed the congregation.68 His view contrasts significantly with Crabtree’s approach with its emphasis on the Spirit’s present work in preaching, noting the Spirit’s role in illuminating and convincing hear- ers, which makes the greatest impression on the hearer’s response to the Word.69 By overstating the role of communication theory, we may neglect the Apostle Paul’s assertion that preaching must be done “with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” so that our “faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.”70 To be fair to Robinson, he does spend much time on the role of Scripture, so that his comments on communication theory may also betray his emphasis on Scripture inspired by the Spirit. While incorporating good communication theory can be helpful for our preaching, I think many of us can acknowledge that we have at times experienced the Spirit’s convicting

66 Cheryl Bridges Johns, “What Makes a Good Sermon: A Pentecostal Perspective,” Journal for Preachers 26, no. 4 (2003): 45-54.

67 Fred Penney, “Applying a Spiritual Warfare Cosmology to Preaching,” D. Min. thesis (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 1999).

68 Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 202, 223.

69 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 31, 56; and Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching, 21, 131. 70 See 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.



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work through a sermon uttered through a preacher with less than admirable nonverbal skills in the pulpit.

Crabtree’s Pentecostal Preaching

Pentecostals like Crabtree highlight the supernatural element that accompa- nies and confirms the preached word. Crabtree argues that without the super- natural in preaching, Pentecostals would not be different from “any other evangelical entity.”71 The importance of supernatural results for Pentecostal preaching, particularly during the altar call, has been substantiated by another Pentecostal homiletician, Aldwin Ragoonath.72 While Crabtree includes salva – tion as one of the greatest miracles — something with which Robinson would likely agree — he also includes other potential miracles, healings, and the expression of the gifts of the Spirit as important for preaching and necessary if it is to be described as ‘Pentecostal preaching.’ A few comments on Crabtree’s proposal related to the supernatural provide insight into this issue. If supernatural occurrences can be expected through faithful Christian preaching, as Crabtree argues, we cannot discount this element to preaching. Like the authors presented here, Paul reminds preachers that they must be focused on Christ — “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”73 But we must under – stand the limits of the supernatural, for Jesus reminds us that that signs may appear among “false Christs” and “false prophets,” and the rising of the dead may not convince people if the word does not convince them.74 Although the signs are not the message, however — the incarnate Word, Jesus is — signs often accompany and confirm the preached word as we find in Scripture. While I do believe that the role of the supernatural is an important part of preaching, I do not think it is a guaranteed response to the sermons of all faith- ful Pentecostal preachers. Crabtree gives the impression that if one does not experience “supernatural” results in preaching — whether salvation, miracles, healing, or an expression of the gifts of the Spirit — the preaching fails to be “Pentecostal.” Cheryl Bridges Johns provides an insightful perspective on the role of the supernatural in her description of good Pentecostal preaching. She states, “Pentecostal congregations expect that the preaching of the Word will bring about the reality described in the text. If the sermon is about the miracles

71  Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 135.

72 Aldwin Ragoonath, Preach the Word: A Pentecostal Approach (Winnipeg: Agape, 2004), 37, 75. 73 See 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

74 Matthew 24:24; Luke 16:19-31.


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of Jesus, they expect to see Jesus present to heal.”75 Thus the supernatural can be expected in our preaching, particularly when the written word — which provides the basis for the preached word — includes such expectations. This has significant implications for preaching within Pentecostal and charismatic contexts — so much so, that I contend that it may be one key reason some have dismissed Pentecostal and charismatic preaching practices. I need to explain these implications further.

If Pentecostal preachers feel that their preaching is “Pentecostal” only when they experience supernatural results from their preaching, they may be tempted to manipulate the context of preaching in order to gain some sort of response to the preached word. I think many Pentecostals and non-Pentecost- als have been turned off by Pentecostal preaching due to the need of some preachers to manipulate meetings in order to bring out some response, whether through “hype,” emotionalism, pushing people at altar calls so they are “slain in the Spirit,” and over-promising the results of an altar call. Why not expect something like healing when you are preaching a message on Jesus healing others? And while healing can take place even during messages not directly about healing, some messages may need to focus on other challenges requiring transformation that may not be considered a sensational supernatural work of God. One may need to focus on such issues as feeding the poor, forgiveness, and serving, which require the Spirit’s supernatural work for transformation. Although delving into the validity of the doctrine of Spirit baptism and initial evidence — which Classical Pentecostal Crabtree argues is tongues — is beyond the purview of this essay, it is significant because he focuses on why those who have experienced Spirit baptism will experience supernatural results in preaching. But even Crabtree acknowledges that the disciples exor- cised demons and witnessed healing through their ministry prior to the Day of Pentecost — which is when he believes the disciples experienced Spirit baptism — but he does not expound on the implications of this for those who are not Pentecostal.76 Although Crabtree tempers his argument, noting that non-Pentecostals have an “enduement” of the Spirit while Pentecostals have a “special enduement” of the Spirit, this is insufficient. While he may be able to argue for an added dimension of power for ministry as a result of Spirit baptism — basing his view on the passage from Acts 1:8 — I think that those who have not experienced Spirit baptism as he describes it should not be under- stood as lacking the potential for supernatural results in their preaching.

75 Johns, “What Makes a Good Sermon,” 50. 76 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 73; Mark 6:7-13.



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Crabtree also mentions the need to be better students of the written word, but he limits his discussion on appropriating Scripture for preaching to approxi- mately nine pages out of a total of 203 pages in his book.77 This illustrates why Pentecostals may use books like Robinson’s in order to counterbalance the sometimes excessive emphasis Pentecostals place on the present work of the Spirit and the supernatural. But while Robinson’s work offers helpful insights into studying Scripture for preachers, Crabtree’s emphasis on preachers being continually yielded to the Spirit cannot be neglected. It is evident that a more balanced Pentecostal approach to preaching is needed today, one that incor- porates the Spirit’s past (Scripture) and present work for preaching. I now turn to three more pressing issues related to the Spirit’s work — beyond the empha- ses in the work of both authors — in preaching while still in conversation with Crabtree and Robinson.

The Spirit’s Work among the Congregation

Both Crabtree’s and Robinson’s works could also be improved by a more robust understanding of the work of the Spirit in the congregation. In Robinson’s approach, the Spirit applies the message of the preached word to the congrega- tion; he also encourages feedback on the sermon preached, which he does not associate with the Spirit’s work. Crabtree focuses on the Spirit’s work upon the congregation so that supernatural results occur through preaching. In both cases, the congregation’s role in the development of the sermon is primarily passive, apart from their response to the sermon. It may be the case that both authors are writing for preachers, so they focus on the preacher’s responsibility. But while those who are the pastors of congregations should not abrogate their responsibility to “shepherd the sheep,” I think it is important to acknowledge the congregation’s gifts of the Spirit and capability of being led by the Spirit. This involvement can lead to their active contribution to the sermon.78 I believe that the congregation can be led by the Spirit to contribute to the sermon from its preparation to the preaching event. Ed Young, Jr.’s suggests forming a team, consisting of a cross-section of the congregation, to help preachers develop sermons; he explains that this adds creativity to the mes- sage and provides insights into blind spots that the preacher may have from his or her limited perspective.79 The various gifts of the Spirit found within such a

77 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 193-202.

78 1 Corinthians 12:7.

79 Young, “Preaching Creatively,” in Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Pastors, ed. Michael Duduit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006), 246-48.


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team — and the congregation in general — can contribute to the sermon in ways that one preacher’s gifts may not do. The congregation can also reflect back on the sermon through discussion and constructive feedback. The congregation can also be involved in the actual delivery of the sermon. The African American preaching tradition is noted for this approach through the use of the “call and response,” which “refers to a pattern of verbal interplay between preacher and congregation that occurs during the sermon and shapes its delivery.”80 Doug Pagitt’s approach extends this concept, advocating for “progressional dialogue,” which “involves the intentional interplay of multiple viewpoints that leads to unexpected and unforeseen ideas.”81 Pagitt’s commen – dation expands the congregation’s involvement beyond a brief response, such as an “amen,” to potentially adding further discourse and points for the ser- mon. Pentecostals have precedent for this in William J. Seymour’s ministry at the Azusa Street Revival, whereby he provided opportunity for others to respond to sermons or even preach.82 Crabtree’s admonition that preaching be done to please God, not people, can also ensure that this practice of including the congregation does not lead to preaching that panders to every opinion in the congregation, but is done with discernment and the intention of glorifying God. I now turn to the Spirit’s future work for preaching, which is linked to this discussion on the work of the Spirit within the congregation.

The Spirit’s Future Work for Preaching

In light of this discussion on the past and present work of the Spirit for preach- ing, it is fitting also to delve into the Spirit’s future work for preaching. First, Jesus explained that one work of the Spirit is to bring his word back to memory.83 This reminds us that while it is tempting to desire immediate gratification from preaching, we must be willing to bear with delayed gratification in the response to the word. What we say in the moment may not be received immediately but may only bear fruit in the future. This acknowledgment can benefit preachers who are so enamored with instant responses to preaching that they fall into the temptation of manipulation.

80 Robert Smith Jr., “Call and Response,” in The New Interpreter’s Handbook of Preaching, ed. Paul Scott Wilson (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), 297.

81  Doug Pagitt, Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 52.

82 Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 115-19.

83 John 14:26.



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Second, we must also recognize that the Spirit’s ongoing work will culmi- nate in our glorification: the immediate results of preaching will not produce perfection, though it aims toward the perfection that the Spirit will bring. In Romans 8:23, Paul explains that we have “the first fruits of the Spirit,” and “wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Simon Chan explains that “[t]he church’s very existence could be described as the Spirit’s constantly pushing the body of Christ forward toward the parousia, the final fulfillment.”84 The continuing role of the Spirit in the church reveals that the church has not reached perfection but is on a journey toward this goal of perfection through the Spirit’s enablement. For preaching, this reminds us that the Spirit is not only critical because of its past and present work, but is also important for the church’s continual journey toward perfection.85 Pentecostal preachers who acknowledge the Spirit’s mission in the church as ongoing and only finding fulfillment in the parousia will be mindful of not placing inordinate pressure on immediate results from sermons, but will acknowledge their ministry as part of the church’s journey in the Spirit’s ongoing and future work in the church.

Finally, the Spirit’s ongoing and future work includes the renewal of all creation. The Psalmist proclaims, “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”86 Steven M. Studebaker, reflect – ing on Romans 8:22-23, explains that “[t]he Spirit who cries out from the breast of every forlorn human also groans within creation and yearns for the same eschatological redemption.”87 He rightly explains that “creation care, no less than the traditional disciplines of Christian formation, is a way the Christian can ‘keep in step with the Spirit.’ ”88 This understanding of the Spirit ensures that our vision for preaching is not relegated to traditional notions of transformation — for example, personal salvation, physical healing, and forgiveness — but to all of creation, so that a fitting response to a sermon may include the ethical treat- ment of animals or the environment.

84 Chan, Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community (Downers Grove, IL: Inter – Varsity Press, 2006), 39.

85 Ibid., 40.

86 Psalm 104:30.

87 Studebaker, “The Spirit in Creation: A Unified Theology of Grace and Creation Care,” Zygon 43, no. 4 (December 2008): 952.

88 Ibid., 954.


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The Spirit’s Role within the Triune God for Preaching

The Spirit’s role within the triune God for preaching must also be addressed. Both Crabtree and Robinson effectively focus on encountering Jesus Christ through preaching, and affirm the role of the Spirit in preaching (although in different ways as described above); but an explicit explanation of the Father’s role in preaching is limited, which underlies an underdeveloped explanation of what the triune God means for preaching. Robinson identifies the Trinity as an important topic for preaching, and explains that the Father is one of the many visions of God — among others, such as Creator, Redeemer, rejected Lover, Husband, and King — that we may encounter when discerning the vision of God in a passage.89 Overall, Robinson shares how one might include thoughts on the triune God for the sermon content; he does not, however, show the implications that the triune God — notably the Father — may have for the act of preaching itself.

Crabtree is more explicit on what the triune God means for the church. He states that the church is “built upon the unity of God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit”; this is significant for Crabtree because it ensures that preachers are faithful to the gospel and Christian theology.90 He explains that Pentecostal preachers as leaders in the New Testament are “distinguished by total dependence upon God the Father, the preeminence of Christ, and the person and work of the Holy Spirit.”91 Crabtree describes this dependence as one that follows the example of Christ, who depended on the Father through prayer.92 Dependence on the Father through prayer is found throughout Crab – tree’s work in his emphasis on Spirit baptism. Crabtree’s inclusion of the Father is understandable, however, since Jesus explicitly states that the promised gift of the Father is Spirit baptism, which is a primary theme in Crabtree’s work.93 The Father’s role is implicitly found throughout his work, since his work is sat- urated with quotations from Scripture that mention the Father; for example: the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and testifies to Jesus; Jesus’ explana- tion that those who believe in him will do greater works than him through the Spirit since he goes to the Father; and Peter’s knowledge of who Jesus is as a revelation from the Father.94 What is interesting to note in all these instances

89 Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 56, 94.

90 Crabtree, Pentecostal Preaching, 70.

91  Ibid., 124.

92 Ibid.

93 Ibid., 109, 121, 154, 157, 159, 161-62.

94 Ibid., 34 ( John 15:26), 36 ( John 14:12), 115 (Matt. 16:16-17).



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is that Crabtree focuses primarily on explaining the relationship between the Son and the Spirit in each context, although he ignores the Father’s role. Crab- tree’s analysis of what the triune God means for preaching is more thorough than Robinson’s but requires further development.

Maintaining a trinitarian approach to preaching ensures that our preaching is not merely about what we do, but the gift the triune God gives. The word begins with the Father, but our response also ends with the Father, which James B. Torrance explains. Torrance frames the practice of preaching in light of worshiping a triune God. He describes worship as “a double movement of grace,” which begins with: “(a) a God-humanward movement, from (ek) the Father, through (dia) the Son, in (en) the Spirit, and (b) a human-Godward movement to the Father, through the Son in the Spirit.”95 This movement shows how worship is a gift that begins with the Father and finds its culmina- tion in the Father. Rather than viewing preaching and other forms of worship primarily about what we do, which can often cause us to become weary, Tor- rance reminds us that preaching should be seen as a gift. Torrance explains how one Pentecostal appropriated this trinitarian approach to worship and realized that he did not have to keep ‘“whipping up’ himself and his congrega- tion to live out their experience,” which led to being weary and tired.96 Torrance’s trinitarian approach to worship is a welcome view for Pentecostal preachers who are often so caught up in working up the emotions of the church to generate a response. Understanding that worship is first and foremost a gift of the triune God ensures that we recognize that authentic worship cannot be manufactured like a number of Pentecostal preachers have attempted to do. The origins of authentic worship are found in the triune God.


Both Crabtree and Robinson approach the act of preaching from two different angles: the present work of the Spirit and the written word inspired by the Spirit. Both elements, however, are necessary for effective preaching. Pente- costals cannot dismiss their own theology for preaching, which includes the gifts of the Spirit and supernatural. But they must also be reminded of the Spir- it’s role in inspiring Scripture, which plays a crucial role in preaching. The work of the Spirit should also not just be expected to lead the preacher; the

95 Torrance, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, 21. 96 Ibid., 22-23.


J. P. S. Samuel / Pneuma 35 (2013) 199-219


congregation can be expected to be led by the Spirit to actively participate in the sermon. And rather than always expecting immediate results in preaching, recognizing the Spirit’s future work ensures that preachers do not fall into the temptation of manipulation for the moment. Finally, preaching must be rooted in the acknowledgement of worship as a gift from the triune God, so that the Spirit’s role is neither diminished nor exalted to the exclusion of the Son and the Father.


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