“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
You know the one about the boy who gave a dollar to the preacher? The preacher, surprised, asks: “What’s this for?” The boy responds, “It’s for you,” he responds. “My father says you’re the poorest preacher he’s ever known.
“Preachers,” we are reminded, “should talk about eternity, not for eternity.”
An exasperated work mate growls: “Don’t you preach to me.” Apparently this is a bad thing.
Why has preaching come upon such hard times? How is it that we can have as many “preacher jokes” as we do lawyer jokes, or congressmen jokes? When did we become the Rodney Dangerfield of church work?
I knew a young man who was in the race to become valedictorian of his high school class (in the end, he was the salutatorian). He expressed a desire to preach. His parents and grand parents were aghast. “What a waste of such intelligence and talent,” they said. I wondered why his great talents could not appropriately be devoted to preaching? Why should the church and the Lord not benefit from his ability? I guess I was outvoted. He went to college and declared himself pre med.
Three years later, however, he announced that medical school would be really hard, and perhaps he would become a preacher after all.
I was against it.
As you might expect, he wondered why. “First you stand up for my desire to preach, even against my family, and now you’re against it?”
I guess I’m against this notion that anybody can preach. Preaching is not on the same level of used car salesmanship. We’re not peddling a product; we’re representing the Almighty!
Preaching, at least preaching done properly, taxes the spirit, wears the body down. It requires patience and courage, diplomacy at times and directness at others. When preachers make mistakes, it affects hundreds, maybe thousands. Every skeptic knows a preacher who “was a hypocrite.” Presidential candidates have speechwriters and handlers; a preacher writes his own messages, and is his own spokesman.
False preaching is no joke; it ought to be bitterly opposed. Neither is biblical preaching a joke. It ought to be thoroughly supported by mature, faithful listeners. I take preaching very seriously indeed. That is not to mean a funny illustration could never be used to make a serious point, simply that preparation, prayer and urgency should be a vital part of preaching.
I actually don’t mind good natured ribbing about preachers, as long as we all understand the importance, the world-wide, eternal reach of the sermon. A school teacher, they say, influences a child for life; a preacher influences his hearers for eternal life.