As a pastor’s kid growing up in a Christian home I have listened to more sermons than many believers twice my age. In addition to this privilege/stewardship I spent close to 13 years at the Grace Community Church (to borrow a humorous expression from Dr. Mohler). Besides sitting under the regular preaching ministries of John MacArthur, Rick Holland, Ken Ramey, Phil Johnson, Carey Hardy, and Jerry Wragg I also was exposed to the likes of W.A. Criswell, Al Mohler, John Piper, and Jim Boice. I have listened to far more sermons in my life than I have ever preached. As I’ve matured in my faith I realize that if the Word of God is faithfully taught (regardless of the preacher) the Spirit of God will use that Word in the life of all true believers (Col. 1:28-29). For those of us “Joe the plumber” preachers that is an encouraging thought!
It is my opinion that in biblical preaching God is most interested in two things: faithfulness and humility. Allow me to make a case for that assertion.
God does not give every saint (or preacher for that matter) the same measure of talent/spiritual giftedness. If I can borrow a principle or two from the Parable of the Talents I may be able to make this point more clearly. In Matthew 25 the text says, For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. When I was in seminary it was obvious to me that all of us “pastors in training” had a lot in common. It was also obvious that not all of us were given the same measure of giftedness. Some of the men had photographic memories and crazy high IQ’s while others had golden tongues. One of the lessons God was trying to teach me during this time of ministry preparation was my personal need to grow in humility. Instead of being envious of the way God gifted a few of these exceptionally bright students I needed to be grateful. If biblical ministry is all about the glories of Christ then how God chooses to bless a man is His prerogative.
It is my opinion that God does not gift every preacher with the exact same spiritual gifts/talents nor does He give every pastor the same measure of gifts/talents. That is how I explain the difference between “Joe the plumber/preachers” and those unique preachers like Jim Boice. To some God has given one talent, to others two, and to a select few, five talents.
What encourages my heart is that God is most concerned about faithfulness not giftedness (that He alone controls, 1 Peter 4:10-11). Consider Luke 12:48 …And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Or take Matthew 25:23, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
This is where I see Paul’s previous post coming in: “Are you growing in your preaching?” What are you doing to become a more faithful steward of God’s infallible Word? Take this common principle of sanctification and apply it to your preaching ministry. Philippians 2:12-13, So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
All of us have witnessed this principle fleshed out in the sports world. Not all athletes are created equal. I remember one guy in college who had so much athletic talent it made many of us wannabes green with envy. Yet this particular basketball player never applied himself and after four seasons never amounted to anything significant. Their were other players I remember who had a quarter of the talent this player had yet because of their hard work ethic, their ability to receive instruction, and their tremendous commitment took their ‘one talent’ of basketball skill to amazing levels. Of course then there are those players like Michael Jordan who receive ‘5 talents of athleticism’ and who discipline themselves as much or more than everyone else around them. The rest as they say is history. R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler are those type of Christians.
It is not profitable to sit around contemplating why God’s made me the way He’s made me or why He has chosen not to gift me as much as Pastor X or Christian Y. What is profitable is to discipline myself for the purpose of godliness. To strive to be a faithful prophet like Jeremiah. To preach the Word in season and out. To be a faithful workman who cuts the word straight each and every Sunday (2 Tim. 2:15). To understand and apply the weakness of power and the power of weakness paradox (2 Cor. 12)
I should not conclude this post without talking about the importance of humility. God will not share His glory with another. That is probably why in His plan of salvation He has chosen not to save many wise or mighty men (1 Cor 1-2). Consider the words of God from Isaiah 66:2, “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
In biblical preaching God is most interested in two things: faithfulness and humility.