If one were to list things that lend to a particular sermon or Bible class being really powerful one could list things like quality of the presentation, solid application, drawing people into the text, etc. But there is something even more powerful than anything else I can think of when it comes to preaching and teaching. This one thing is out of our control and yet we can open ourselves up for it to be more a part of what we do if we take on the right posture. I am talking about God working through the lessons that are presented week in and week out. I can’t tell you how many times I thought a sermon was going to be particularly good only to have a flat response and how many times I thought something might not fly and hear from people that it really made a difference for them.
I don’t know how all this works or why things work on people some times rather than other times but I do believe God is able to use us. I also believe that sometimes we get too much in the way and when we do we disconnect from the very thing we are trying to do and lose any and every source of authority and credibility by which we deliver the lesson. I don’t think we can twist God’s arm into working more often or more powerfully but I do think God looks to see if we are relying on Him in what we are doing and that we recognize that the power of the lesson comes from Him and not from ourselves. Part of the preparation we do as preachers and teachers is to spend time praying over things and asking God to make “main things” out of what He makes a “main thing” and that we major in majors rather than majoring in minors.
The less it is about us (our pride, our position, or advancement) the better. That is one reason we miss the point when we think a particular lesson is going to fly and it flops instead. We thought we had a cute delivery method or a nice catchy way of turning a phrase or two (been there, tried that) but if it lacks God-centered content, it doesn’t matter how you dress it up, it is going to come out flat. I think these words from 2 Peter 1:3ff are particularly fitting,
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
Bottom line…what makes a sermon or Bible class powerful? God does.