The issues that are relevant if we wish to see God move and bless His Work are godliness of life and prayerfulness, and regardless of the theological camp a man belongs to, there is an absence of unction. The evidence from Edwards and DMLJ is as clear as could be that these men experienced the divine unction on their ministries and numerous conversions followed. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Owen, who had no known conversions, though, of course, that does not mean there were none. He did say, mind you, that he would give all his learning to be able to preach like John Bunyan, the tinker and evangelist. Wouldn't we all!
We are fooling ourselves when we convince ourselves that no conversions equate to faithfulness to the Gospel. Spiritual pride and arrogance drives us when we think like that. McCheyne used to preach and pray with his face buried in his hands and the tears running down his cheeks. My biggest fault as a preacher is that I cannot preach in that attitude, for I am far too sinful. Perhaps we need to read McCheyne's sermons and study them closely to see how to preach the Gospel with power sent down from heaven. We need that sense of God in our services, and not "glorified Bible studies," as DMLJ so rightly described so many so-called sermons. Orthodoxy is important, but if a preacher studies more to be orthodox than he does to know the Spirit's power upon him, he has no right to ascend any pulpit.
How much we crave and pursue popularity with men, and neglect being in the special favour of God. Our hearts are so sinful and wicked.
I have said it often, there are far too many 'essay readers' in our pulpits today with the result that we are far more concerned to get something out of our heads rather than get something into the hearts and heads of our hearers. Preaching is about communication, communication of the highest and most exalted order; yet it is here that we fail so lamentably. How sorrowful I am when I think that I used to describe my ministry as "a Bible teaching ministry." This is vitally important, but if that is all we are doing, then God be merciful to us. My sinful heart was so full of pride of the worst kind that I blush to even say this. My heart is pained to admit this travesty.
One thing I have been well aware of (and its something I have done more in the breach than in the observance) and that is "the barrenness of a busy life." Satan works us so hard that we do not do the very spiritual exercises that we know are needed. The church also plays into this because she does not want us to be "men of God" in any real and effective sense. So, she puts us on all these committees and commissions with the very purpose of keeping us off our knees. She invites us here and there, all to keep us from fellowship with the Lord. And into the bargain, we become all puffed up with pride and entertain thoughts of how good/great we really are, when in reality we are no better than unprofitable servants.
Satan will use anything and anyone to keep a man off his knees. R. M. McCheyne said, "What a man is on his knees before God, that he is and no more." We're not much, are we? Someone also said, "If you want to humiliate a minister, ask him about his prayer life." How truly devoted is he to Christ whom he preaches and offers to the lost? How much does he love the Saviour (Jn.21)? What are his real priorities in ministry?
Perhaps we are much too full of our own importance for God to use us. Perhaps self-righteousness has taken such a hold of us that we would not be prepared to admit it. Perhaps we imagine that by 'performing' well in the pulpit, our own or someone else's, we are pleasing the Lord. Are we? Is ministry just about 'performance'? How much do we really depend upon God's anointing when we preach, and how much on ourselves?
We need to dedicate ourselves to doing serious business with God if we are see any move of His Spirit. But we are not prepared to do what it takes to make this a reality. We're too busy at other things. We need to de-clutter our lives of all that does not allow us to do that very thing.
This is surely enough to be going on with for now. We will continue this dialogue with a view to making the necessary changes in our lives so that we reflect more closely the pattern set out in Scripture.