Last week we discussed some unbiblical views about preachers. We also discussed how many of these unbiblical views are warranted based upon how some who fashion themselves as preachers act and what they teach.
We are using John the Baptizer as an example of a great preacher. To quote from last week’s column:
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 how he dresses or because of how wealthy he is. John wore poor man’s clothes and ate a poor man’s diet. His clothes were made of camel’s hair and his food was locusts and wild honey.
I’ve never eaten a locust, unless by accident at some point. On the plus side, if my only food were locusts and honey, I don’t think I would have to worry about becoming overweight! I don’t imagine John ate them because they were the choicest and tastiest meal. He ate them of necessity to survive.
The point is this: John was not great because he was great by men’s worldly standards. There’s nothing wrong with a preacher dressing nicely or having money. I don’t read about many rich preachers in my Bible, but that’s another point.
My point is that just because someone has the “right look” or lives in the “right neighborhood” does not make them a great preacher. By the way I hear some people talk, you would think that the only thing that someone remembered from a sermon was how nicely the preacher was dressed.
By the same token, if someone doesn’t have the “right look,” then many won’t even give them the time of day. I learn from John the Baptizer that one’s appearance is not what makes him a great preacher.
A preacher is not great because he makes his hearers feel “good on the inside.” John’s message was not a cozy, self-help talk about “seven steps to a better you.”
His message was not centered on how much God wants to financially bless you. His message was “repent” (Matthew 3:2). His message was “hard.” He called for radical moral reformation. He even called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:1).
How’s that for a feel-good message? The Jews thought they were saved because they were born of a Jewish woman. John’s answer to that notion was an emphatic “no!” He said that there is a new kingdom coming, the kingdom of heaven, which man may only enter in by bring “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
He says “every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). The kingdom of heaven (i.e. Christ’s kingdom) is not based upon nationality or ethnicity, but upon the character of one’s soul and their response to God’s word (Galatians 3:26-28).
The people loved his preaching! The people came out in the hot desert and uncomfortably sat in the hot sand to be told to repent. They had not had a word from the Lord in four hundred years since the prophet Malachi of the Old Testament. The silence had been broken, and God’s message for those people was “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2)!
There is a time and a season for different types of messages from God’s word. God’s word has the ability to build up, give comfort and hope, and to give delight to God’s people (Acts 20:32; Romans 15:4; Psalm 119:97).
Paul told the preacher Timothy to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). There is a time for encouragement, but there is also a time for correction and rebuke.
At the heart of man’s response to the gospel is the need for repentance, which is a change of mind kindled by godly sorrow and conviction over one’s sin that leads to a changed lifestyle. Any gospel preaching that leaves out the necessity for repentance is not gospel preaching at all.
How many reading this hear preaching week after week that does not challenge you? When was the last time a sermon stepped on your toes and convicted you of your sin? When was the last time your preacher preached a message that upset you because you knew deep down it required you to make real changes in your life to be pleasing to God?
If a sermon never makes us uncomfortable and pushes us to reform our lives, either the preaching is soft and weak or our hearts are hardened.
It has been my honor and privilege to write this column for the LaGrange Daily News. I have done my best to provide balanced, biblical subjects. I hope these articles have helped you move closer to Christ. As always, feel free to contact me any time.
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.