I am a preacher. It is what God called me to do. In my surrender to ministry, He confirmed this calling in the propositional questions Paul asks in Romans 10:13-15 when he makes the definitive statement, “All those who call upon the Lord shall be saved.” He asks, “How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? How will they hear unless someone preaches to them? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news (gospel) of good things!”
Honestly though…most non-Christians struggle to grasp the concept. How can they? Understanding such a calling requires a reference point in the gospel itself.
For this reason, when I am speaking to a non-believer, I often explain what I do in some version of public speaking. Most of them have had to give a book report or have taken a public speaking class in college so they can relate to that aspect of speaking; however, in truth, preaching and public speaking are miles apart. Here are a few ways:
- Public speakers prepare “talks” or speeches to give. In preaching, the man of God is prepared by the message that the Lord gives Him. God works me over in a process of refining and purifying as He prepares me and the message in my heart.
- Public speakers employ rhetorical devices to manipulate audiences. (Please hear “manipulate” in the most charitable of ways, since my point is that they seek to have their words move the audience.) In preaching, it is not the skill of the preacher that is responsible for moving a congregation. We convictionally believe that God moves His people through the Word but not by the words.
- Public speakers want to be liked/appreciated/lauded/invited back. This is not wrong…since if you are a speaker, this is how you make a living. Preachers often speak in such a way that if you did not love them, you could never like them. They apply God’s Word as a chisel to hearts of stone and pry into areas of behavior that are barely, at times, socially acceptable. Preachers are like surgeons that use a scalpel to remove a tumor and then tell you the recovery will be painful but necessary.
- Public speakers choose their own topics based, often times, on some sense of mastery of the subject. While a preacher should demonstrate expertise in handling the Word, He is most typically not one who has mastered the subject or its implications. He is a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.
- Public speakers can walk away. Like any profession, one can choose to retire or semi-retire. Preachers are terminated. The prophet Jeremiah says that the Word of God implanted in a preacher is like a fire in his bones that burdens the man until he lets it out. One day, God terminates his position. Until then, he must preach.
- Finally, public speakers need skillful rhetoric to accomplish a task; whereas, a preacher has no such need. The object of preaching, that is the Word of God…always accomplishes that for which it was intended. God uses His Word despite (or perhaps through) the preacher’s limitations.
Some may wonder, “Why would anyone be a preacher?” Simply put…because God calls a man to the task and uses the preacher’s efforts, however wondrous or feeble, to confound the wisdom of the world (1 Cor 1:20-25), and to bring glory to Himself! God chose preaching as His instrument…not a dialogue, a debate, or a lecture, but preaching. God directed that those who desire to serve God as an elder/pastor, always be ready to preach “the Word,” in every season and circumstance (2 Tim 4:2).
Thus, I am a preacher. Nothing more. Nothing less. Without compromise. I lack perfection and I often fail…but I am being fitted and shaped as an instrument of revelation and reconciliation by the One who called me out of darkness and enlisted me in the ranks of the those bearing the calling—to preach.