There’s masses of them available at the click of a finger. They are great preachers. They handle the Word in a faithful and engaging way. The exegesis is first class, the expository development spot on, the hermeneutical skills well-developed and the Word comes effectively to your soul. So you think if only we had preaching like that in our church; I would love it, my church experience would be transformed and all would be well. In fact more than well!
And yet there is one key thing missing here. Those great preachers far far away are just that; they are far far away. And you don’t know their lives.
I was led to ponder upon this having heard a little bit of the personal situation of a preacher I would have admired and benefitted from who is far far away. What was revealed opened up a few question marks for me about the character of the man.
So I want to muse upon three specific issues here.
The first is that of character. It is not exceptional gifts that are the necessary equipping for the pastoral office it is the character of the man. In 1 Timothy 3:2-7 these are given as an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
These are observable and testable matters of character. God is looking for the character of the man, who He calls to the preaching and pastoral office, to be above reproach. By our magnifying the gifts of someone we may well be getting a perspective out of line with the one God wants us to have.
The second thing is that the vital ministry of a man should be among those who know his life and character. It is his character that gives substance to his ministry. So the man called to the preaching ministry should have a life which is open to the view of the people he ministers to. Local and near is the call for true ministry. You may not have the most gifted man (or men) bringing the Word to you regularly in your church. However, if they are men who with an opaqueness display godliness then that is such a key attribute in giving gravitas to their ministry.
The third thing to be aware of is the tendency to be lauding preachers who are far far away whilst downplaying the ministry of the preacher(s) in your own church. To have those magnificent preacher men who you can dip into and pick and choose from may seem very fulfilling to your soul. But is it? Surely it is the faithful man near at hand that we should be lauding. He knows you, he loves you; he lives His life before you. So let’s be finished with all our comparisons to the big men with their big ministries. And let us cherish those who faithfully serve us without a great fanfare, but are sold-out for the welfare of our souls. So go encourage those involved in the preaching ministry in your church today.