When It Comes To Preaching, Nobody’s Perfect... Almost

Photo by  Brett Jordan  on  Unsplash

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

Romans 10:14-15 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

One of the simple joys of being a nobody is that you can write and publish whatever is on your mind and the number of people that care is precisely zero. Or at least it is close enough to zero to be statistically insignificant. Thanks, mom. Just kidding, she doesn’t read my blog either. I told her I started one and she replied, “What’s that mean?”

So, I like being a nobody, especially since they say “nobody’s perfect”! I think I might be reading that wrong. Never mind.

I took piano lessons when I was a kid, and sadly, I did not continue. I’ve regretted that ever since. Later, I went on to learn the acoustic guitar, which I got quite good at. Then I went off to college and didn’t take the guitar with me. One thing led to another, and years later, I can only remember three chords and none of the classical pieces I learned. When you’re a teenager, you never imagine that you could forget things so quickly if you don’t stay in practice.

What I mean to say is that I have always liked to create things. Creative people need an outlet. And many times as an adult, I’ve listened to someone play an amazing classical piece or sacred arrangement on the piano while I envied them because they can express themselves in music while I sit there experiencing the same rapture but with no outlet.

As an adult, my Radiology career provided some outlet since taking Radiographs is quite technical. It’s a unique blend of both science and art. It often required improvising to get the perfect image since every person's body is different and pathology and injury make “text-book” imaging out of the question. It’s not just point-and-shoot. There was never total fulfillment in that either though since the job is often taken for granted and few know the nuances of anatomy and diagnostic images well enough to appreciate when one has been truly artful and precise.

It was after I was called to ministry that I began to realize that words can be just as much an outlet for creativity as anything. Communication in spoken word is not that different from communication with musical notes on a page or the craftsmanship of one’s trade. One can become a “wordsmith”.

When it comes to teaching and communicating the Bible, not only is it a creative outlet for those who love to make things, but it is also an incredible privilege because of the nature of the content and the weight of the calling.

I’m not trying to make the teaching of the Bible seem trite, or reduce it to a mere creative outlet alone, but having a way with words seems to go well with the teaching of THE Word. Some “Aptness” is required for the office (1 Timothy 3:2). Frankly, some teachers are easier to listen to than others. I’ve become admittedly picky in my tastes when I listen to preaching. I admit, sometimes unfairly to the teacher. I don’t care if a man uses big words or sounds Shakespearian. That doesn’t matter. It’s the train of thought that he hitches together in my understanding, one “boxcar” at a time. It’s the wall of truth he builds in my mind brick by compelling brick. It’s the connecting of a difficult Bible concept with a simpler one to better open up the difficult one. It’s his ability to explain the Bible with the Bible. Those things grab my attention and make my heart “sing” along. Aptness does not mean “oratory”, it just means “skilled”. Those aren’t the same.

I’m not trying to diminish the ministry of the Holy Spirit in preaching either. But isn’t it true that the most Spirit-filled messages you ever remember hearing are the ones where you “got it”? Your understanding was opened and you gained a Biblical insight that you’d previously missed. You saw something in a better light because of the way it was explained and it moved you to holy decisions. We often leave those messages saying, “The Holy Spirit worked”, when in actuality, so did the teacher. He worked to craft his words, like a woodcarver shapes wood, to present to you the beauty of the scriptures. Then he asked the Lord to take it and use it and use him (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

My mentor says that in preaching, “There are two messages- the one being preached to the ears, and the other one to heart.” The preacher gives the former and the Holy Spirit gives the latter. However, it seems to me that they work, shall we say, in concert to convey the mind of God in the text. Ultimately though, it is the Lord that gets to receive all the credit, because, well, it's His composition after all. He not only made the Word, but he also made the teacher, gave him life, breath, understanding, and enabled him to speak. As the perfect Spirit of God, He takes the imperfect nobody and gives his words weight and meaning and clarity so that THE Word can be understood. So when it comes to preaching, there is One who is perfect. It’s just not the preacher you see standing behind the pulpit.

While the Word alone can do its work by the convicting power of the Spirit, why then has God chosen to use “earthen vessels”? For what possible reason would he want mere men to take up the instrument of the Word and attempt to “play” it in the ears of other men? Ultimately, that’s God’s prerogative and I don’t know why He chooses to use preachers. I just know that He does. He used my mentor in my life to cause my heart to “sing” with the teaching of the Word.

If the teaching of the scriptures were indeed like a musical score and the Bible the instrument, some teachers are virtuoso. I feel like the pimple-faced teenager in his bedroom squeaking away on a trumpet while his parents cringe downstairs.

So, I think there is an important need for getting better with words as well as THE Word, which is why I write. The Lord can use the unskillful, but to be Biblically virtuous, we should develop the skills He delights to use. Perhaps someone will misunderstand my analogies here or take them too far and think I’ve completely misunderstood preaching ministry. That’s ok. Besides, there’s that whole “Nobody” thing, so…

If you’ve found this helpful, consider sharing it with a friend! Thanks!