Finney: Speaking with God’s Anointing

Many ministers during the time of Charles Finney were trained to write out their sermons each week. Finney felt this wasn’t the best way to receive God’s anointing and truly give the people what they needed. He had his own unique way of preparing to preach. Here’s how he explains it in his autobiography:

Finney's MemoirsI do not confine myself to hours and days of writing my sermons; but my mind is always pondering the truths of the Gospel, and the best ways of using them.  I go among the people and learn their wants. Then, in light of the Holy Spirit, I take a subject that I think will meet their present necessities. I think intensely on it, and pray much over the subject on Sabbath morning, for example, and get my mind full of it, and then go and pour it out to the people.

Then he discusses the problems associated with written sermons:

Whereas one great difficulty with a written sermon is, that a man after he has written it, needs to think but little of the subject. He needs to pray but little. He perhaps reads over his manuscript Saturday evening, or Sabbath morning; but he does not feel the necessity of being powerfully anointed, that his mouth may be opened and filled with arguments, and that he may be enabled to preach out of a full heart.

He is quite at ease. He has only to use his eyes and his voice, and he can preach, in his way. It may be a sermon that has been written for years; it may be a sermon that he has written, every word of it, within the week. But on Sabbath-day there is no freshness in it. It does not come necessarily new and fresh, and as an anointed message from God to his heart, and through his heart to the people.

Finney always had as his first concern the effectiveness of a message on the people who hear it. What would they take away from the message? How best to communicate it?

I believe that half an hour’s earnest talk to the people from week to week, if the talk be pointed, direct, earnest, logical, will really instruct them more than the two labored sermons that those who write, get off to their people on the Sabbath. I believe the people would remember more of what is said, be more interested in it, and would carry it away with them to be pondered, vastly more than they do what they get from the labored written sermons.

I believe he is correct.