Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Nobility of Preaching

God had only one son, and He was a preacher! Where would the church be without faithful gospel preachers who sacrificed much to proclaim the gospel. I would not be a Christian were it not for a gospel preacher who reached my family in 1918 and another gospel preacher who reached me in 1961. Philemon owed himself to Paul (Philemon 19); perhaps we too owe ourselves to men who fathered us in the gospel.

Unfortunately, many people hold the work of preaching in low esteem. Parents often steer their children into other professions than full-time preaching. Many faithful Christians prefer their daughters marry someone other than a preacher. Among some of our colleges, large numbers of our students train to be youth ministers but have little desire to enter into full-time preaching.

Those who preach frequently hear they are to “cut the sermon short” because of some other event at the worship services. Hearing a preacher is just not that important. One might wonder if anyone ever tells prayer leaders, song leaders, or those who preside at the Lord’s table to keep their parts short. Such attitudes reflect a heart too busy to listen to God. Those who enter preaching do so, knowing they will often be the subject of many discussions at the noon meal. Sometimes the discussion is positive, but sometimes it is not. I wonder if in some of those discussions some talented, young man’s heart is turned from the pulpit.
The work of preaching the whole counsel of God lends itself to the necessity at times of saying things people despise hearing. Jesus said the world hated Him, because “I testify of it, that its deeds are evil” (John 7:7). Gospel preachers must decide in their hearts whether they are willing to speak the truth at the cost of people’s admiration or speak things which tickle ears.

Three things have hurt gospel preaching. First, it has become fashionable for some of those who want change to mock and bash preachers, especially older ones. People say one should not be “preachy,” showing little understanding of how it may hurt a young person’s attitude toward “preachers.” We should use caution with our words, so that we may encourage the young to consider gospel preaching as a life vocation. To hear some talk this would be the last consideration. Such thinking shows how the devil wins through intimidation and mockery.

Second, with little hesitation some show they have little respect for the sacrifices of gospel preachers in former years. They slander their work, charge them with never understanding grace, and paint them as ignorant and unfeeling. It never occurs to some that these graceless, ignorant, brush-arbor preachers baptized more people in a year than some of today’s ministers baptize in a decade. If they lack so much grace, why did people eagerly listen to them and respond? How could these “mean-spirited legalists” have built so many churches? Their message of the cross was pure and true to the Book. Did they know of grace? How can any man preach the cross and not know of the grace of God?

Third, some have adopted a style of preaching which reminds me of a potato chip. It looks good, tastes good, but has little nutritional substance. Everyone enjoys the message, but no one is changed by it. It tickles ears and sounds so good. When a gospel preacher comes along with a different style, he may find rejection because he dares to challenge, to condemn, and to convict. listeners who would rather hear only pleasant things.

What Makes Preaching Noble?

Preaching is noble because it is God’s work. God is the One who commissioned men to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15). Paul said, "How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:14,15)

Paul held in high esteem those who took the good news to others who needed it. He knew their value, the blessing they brought those who listened. The ugliest part of them, their feet, was indeed beautiful for having brought a life-saving message to people lost in sin.
Preaching is noble because its message is most important. The world is in desperate need of the gospel of grace. When Paul entered Athens his spirit was provoked with him as he saw the city full of idols (Acts 17:16). Paul was greatly distressed, irritated and grieving, because they didn’t know the living God. They needed what he had been commissioned to deliver, but they did not know it. He yearned to tell them, to save them from ignorance.
Preaching is noble because its results are far-reaching. Mack Lyon said, “Preaching is the one single work or calling that deals with man’s eternal destiny, man’s soul.” Though doctors are called to heal bodies and teachers to educate minds, preachers touch men’s eternal souls. Preaching affects both this life and the life to come. The preaching of God’s Word comforts, converts, convicts and encourages. It lifts, motivates, shapes and stretches. Through preaching a listening man becomes better, nobler, richer and purer. When one is touched with the gospel, who knows how many others will be touched? Preachers do not merely teach their immediate listeners; they reach beyond to those their listeners teach as well. Who knows in the future what some bright young man will do with his life to serve the Lord?
Preaching is noble because its activity is essential to salvation. It is in obedience to the preached truth that a man is born again (1 Pet. 1:22-25). God chose the foolishness of the message “preached” to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21); He realized man by his own wisdom could never reach heaven without His help. God chose preaching as the means to lead men to Himself and to salvation.
Preaching is noble because its motivation is honorable. Those who preach do so, for the most part, out of love for God and people. While some may preach out of envy and strife (Phil. 1:15,16), others do it from good will and out of love. Many preachers have a deep burden for the lost and great compassion for the brethren. Paul admonished the Ephesians with tears for three years (Acts 20:31). He made himself a slave to all that he might win the more to Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
Preaching is noble because it takes character to do it. Effective gospel preaching requires a high price from those who do it. They must be honest, courageous, compassionate and virtuous. As men of integrity, preachers must faithfully deliver God’s message to people who don’t always want to hear what they have to say. The weeping Jeremiah often grew discouraged with impenitent Judah, but the fire in his bones would not allow him to remain silent about sin (Jer. 20:7-10). Gospel preaching demands godly men who will not compromise and will not discredit the Name they wear.

What Can We Do?

Preachers can do several things to boost their image, but they need the help of all who love the Lord’s cause. Preachers need first and foremost to preach with visible love. People who love the Lord will listen to godly men, if they know their preacher loves them. Good preaching starts with loving ministry and care day to day. Hospital and home visits help preachers to get their messages across. People will tolerate rebuke from men they respect, when they feel he has their best interest at heart. We must preach the truth with love (Eph. 4:15), if we are ever to recover an esteem for the pulpit.

Preachers need to hear themselves. Some preachers have adopted a style which appears unloving. Should they preach on hell, some conclude by his attitude he wishes they would go there. Preachers would do well to listen to the sound of their voices. What does their tone of voice communicate? One preacher I admire seems always to be angry. One woman remarked she was tired of church, because she got a spanking every Sunday from the preacher. His attitude or tone of voice could have spoken things to her he never meant. Most preachers love their congregations and mean well, but some are not good at showing it. Many preachers would do well to evaluate themselves for more than content.

Preachers, further, need to rediscover joy. The gospel is glad tidings not sad tidings, and many preachers wear depressing and discouraging faces. We cannot impart what we do not possess, and it could be that our churches reflect a joyless gospel. Preacher, show the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:10), the unspeakable joy of your inheritance (1 Pet. 1:6-8), the joy of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17; Gal. 5:22), and your joy in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). Infectious smiles radiate who you are and Whose you are. Many preachers need to learn to laugh again.
Finally, live lives free of reproach. Paul encouraged Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12). He urged Titus, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Tit. 2:15). Preachers must speak with authority at times, but they forget that their best ally is moral authority. Such authority comes from blameless lives, filled with love and purity.

Every preacher faces a discouraging day now and then. He should remember what he does is vital to the Lord’s work. God needs faithful men who will be able to teach others, men of courage who will stand in the gap, watchmen who will warn of danger, and evangelists who will take the great news to a lost and dying world. Preaching is noble because the gospel is a Divine message. How privileged a clay jar is to carry such a precious and needed message! Preacher, you have such a privilege.


R2K said...

: )

JP Manzi said...

Although I'm not a preacher, I really appreciated the words spoken here.

Great post Phil