The Biggest Word In Preaching!
- 2005 1 May
We must emphasize this to all who hear us. The Bible call is not to bask in God's promises — great as they are — but to know God personally. It is our duty as preachers to take the people beyond the notion that God is some protecting daddy in the sky. He does not exist for the purpose of helping them make a profit in business or to keep them safe when they travel. God is not some magic protector whose purpose is to serve us and those who hear us preach. He never intended to carry our cases and He's not about to start that now for God is God. God is not our servant. We are His servants. He is the Almighty Father. He rules heaven and earth and all history-every day of it, whether good or not so good from our perspective. The Gospel we are called to preach is not about what He will do for us but about what we must do for Him because of who He is. It is all about His character.
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?" (Isaiah 40:12).
The same is true for you and me as preachers. Proclaiming the gospel of Jesus is a character profession. Forget that and you'll end up in trouble, sooner or later, every time. You can tell a lie and still be a good lawyer. You can cheat on your spouse and still practice brain surgery as well as your more moral friends. You can cheat on your taxes and still be a great veterinarian. Clearly, as we have seen, political leadership and plagiarism still can fit together without impacting the end result of the next election. One of the lessons of the recent Martha Stewart trial is that one can perjure oneself on the witness stand and still function as an FBI agent. But you cannot do those things as a preacher and expect God's anointing. Preaching is first, foremost, and always about character, integrity! When you felt the call to preach, (and if you didn't feel it and started preaching anyway, you started out in trouble!) implied in that call was the word integrity. Forget what the dictionary says about antidisestablishmentarianism being the biggest word in the English language. For you, the biggest word is character. You and you alone are responsible for your character. And if you cannot accept that responsibility, you will bring reproach to the largest Person in all history whose name is Jesus. If that is where you are, please do the Lord (and the rest of us who preach) a favor and resign. Now!
Self-centeredness! Distorting the message to serve your own ends! Using your verbal skills to control people! Immorality! Appetite for power or money! All these are character killers. Avoid them like the plague.
Andy Warhol said one day everybody would be famous for fifteen minutes. That was an exaggeration! Popularity is momentary. Riches don't last. Even great preaching and great preachers fade and die away. Only one thing endures. Character! Character lasts forever! For God and for us, it is finally all about character! That's what makes character the biggest word in preaching.
Robert Leslie Holmes is pastor of Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church, in Lexington, SC, and a contributing editor to Preaching. His newest book When Good Enough Just Isn't Good Enough (Ambassador-Emerald Intl.) is available now. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org