Yesterday afternoon I reflected on the text of the morning sermon at my church, 1 Corinthians 2:1–5. In this passage Paul seems to make two points about his approach to preaching the Gospel.
First, Paul says that he avoided oratorical and philosophical flourishes in order to maximize the knowledge of the crucified Christ. Second, he ministered to the Corinthians in weakness and without persuasive argumentation so that their faith would rest not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God alone.
I heard a second or third-hand report about a pastor who manuscripts his sermons to minimize their oratorical impact. I know him to be an unusually gifted communicator, and I have no doubt that he could leave the congregation in awe of his homiletical skills. Yet, he has made the uncommon choice to limit his persuasive powers so that the impact of the message preached will be grounded in the power of the Spirit, not in his tactical ability to "draw the net."
A MacArthur Study Bible note succinctly describes this attitude: "There were no theatrics or techniques to manipulate people's response. [Paul's] fear and shaking was because of the seriousness of his mission."
How refreshing to think of Paul's strategy to make himself so small and obscure! He seems intentionally to have minimized his own personality and apostolic authority so that they would fade in contrast to the blazing light of the glory of Christ in the gospel he preached. How at odds would Paul be with our modern concept of "power in the pulpit," which often refers more to the personality or technique of the preacher than to any sense that lasting spiritual fruit is a supernatural work of God that no human can invoke.