What comes to your mind when you hear the word preacher?
Some may have very positive thoughts about preachers, but I would say most of society views them negatively, or at least views them as strange oddities. Many corrupt and immoral charlatans, posing as preachers, have undoubtedly done much harm to the public perception of preachers. From sex scandals to tax fraud, immorality in the lives of religious leaders has done much to sully the name of “preacher” in our society.
I can speak from personal experience that being a preacher presents some awkward social interactions. Being a preacher can be a lonely place at times.
I have a business background and am a CPA. I lived as a Christian while working at a public accounting office for three and a half years. As soon as I decided I wanted to preach, I noticed immediately I began to be treated differently by Christians and the world, as if suddenly my skin had turned green.
And I can understand why. Mostly it’s because of misconceptions about what it means to be a preacher. Some people think you are constantly judging them. Some are intimidated. Some think that you are a scheming opportunist, preying on poor parishioners. Some think you couldn’t “hack it” in any other profession, so you settled for “just being a preacher.”
Some think they only need to tame their tongues around preachers – as if God can only see their sins when the preacher is present. It is humorous sometimes to see the disposition of people completely change in front of you once you identify yourself as a preacher.
But what does it mean to be a preacher?
Mostly, the term “preacher” is associated with Christianity, although anyone who is proclaiming a message is a preacher of sorts. However, I am not talking about “preachers” in the general sense of the term. I am interested in Bible preachers.
As in all things pertaining to Christianity, we need to go back to the Bible to determine what is right and wrong, and how to define religious terms. I do not just want to know what a Bible preacher is, but I want to know what it means to be a great Bible preacher.
Jesus called John the Baptizer the greatest preacher: “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). What made John great? We will have a good idea about what made him great by looking at what did not make him great.
A preacher is not great because of the building in which he preaches. John preached in the “wilderness of Judea” (Matthew 3:1). It was very inconvenient for people to come hear the preaching of John, yet they came by the droves (Matthew 3:7).
Some people are so stuck-up and arrogant that they would not even consider going to hear the preaching of someone in “less-than-ideal” conditions. They may think to themselves, “If he had something worth saying, he would be in one of the big, elaborate buildings downtown.”
John was not great because he preached in the most prominent places in society. In fact, the reason he did not was because the religious establishment of his day was corrupt.
Do not misunderstand me, there is nothing inherently wrong with preaching in a nice place or in a place of great prominence. Paul did so on many occasions. However, the location of a preacher does not make him great. Great Bible preachers preach any place and any time for the cause of Christ (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 3:15).
A preacher is not great because of his education. Lightfoot said the following concerning John’s background: “He lived in the country, not in the city; his education was more coarse and plain in the country, without the breeding of the university, or court at Jerusalem.”
Christianity is not anti-education. The apostle Paul was one of the most highly educated people in his society (Acts 22:3). However, just because someone has more letters than the alphabet behind their name does not mean they are a great Bible preacher.
Remember, the Pharisees were the most theologically trained, yet they ultimately failed as teachers of the Law and led many astray (Matthew 23). The sad fact is that in our society, you might have a man who knows his Bible inside and out and more importantly, knows God. However, he will be overlooked in deference to a man who has a doctorate, even though that man may not know God at all.
I am thankful for sound, scholarly men that have devoted their lives to study. There is a great need for them. I respect someone who has earned a doctorate and has proven himself academically. My point because they have earned a doctorate (or Masters), it does not make them a great Bible preacher.
I hope this has got you thinking about what it means to be a “great preacher.” Next week, we will finish this list of things that do not make someone a great Bible preacher.
We often have expectations and thoughts about preachers that are simply unbiblical. The way I hear preachers idolized because of their eloquence, education, golden smiles, suit selection, salaries and other unbiblical criterion for Bible preachers terrifies me. God help us to be less carnal and worldly-minded and turn to Him.
Torrey Clark is the host of the weekly Christian worldview talk show, Culture Shock (www.thelightnetwork.tv/shows). He may be reached at email@example.com.