Friday, April 30, 2010

Preachers then and now

The Bible tells us about a lot of men who we would call preachers, men who were prophetic voices. They were pretty distinctive men and were rarely very popular. Look at these men and see if they sound like the local preacher in your town.

John the Baptist

He wore animal skins and ate bugs. He lived and preached on the coming Kingdom in the wilderness. No parsonage and suit and tie for him! His preaching was pretty popular and made him well-respected in the community. Or maybe not...

But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter." And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. (Mat 14:6-11)

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.

O LORD, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail? (Jer 15:15-18)

He wasn't really very popular, was he? A sad loner but one who found his delight not in the applause of men but in the words of God.

Paul

He didn't find terribly adoring audiences in most places he went.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2Co 11:24-28)


Stephen

"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Act 7:51-60)

He didn't get a "great sermon preacher!" when he was done, he got stones.

Those aren't the kind of men we adore as preachers today. Today we want men who can speak clearly, with easy to follow points. We want men who entertain us, even among those who decry entertainment preaching. We expect our preachers to be genteel men, men who are respected members of the community. How many churches would want a pastor who spent lots of time in jail like Paul did? I mean, think of all the committee meetings he would miss, and who would deliver the sermon on Sunday? Instead of him visiting us, we would have to visit him in some icky prison!

Where are the men with prophetic voices, men who are not revered but reviled?

You want to be a full-time preacher of the Gospel? Then do it right. Get rid of the suit and tie. Forget about your standing in the community. Don't fear offending the biggest donors. Don't be concerned about getting the choice speaking engagements. Eschew the titles, the trappings and the honors that come along with being part of the clergy. Let Christ be your audience. You might not be invited to pray at the local prayer breakfast but the true reward will be infinitely greater.

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4 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Arthur,

Do you part of the reason your "preachers" got a bad response is because of their audience? Its easy to get a "good sermon preacher" when proclaiming the gospel to people who already believe... not exactly the audience intended in Scripture.

-Alan

Tim Aagard said...

These men were prophetic preachers, calling people who claimed to be followers of God to repent of their bogus substitutions for what God asked for. 99% of churches have a "pastor-teacher" on staff just like Eph. 4:11 says for "equipping the saints..." but none of them have a "prophet" on staff "for equipping the saints..." Why do churches nullify that prophet is mentioned before pastor-teacher? This one of many clear demonstrations that the institutional church is bent on following tradition, not the truth, much like the Catholic church.

Arthur Sido said...

Alan, I would absolutely agree that most sermons are aimed at believers and yet we don't really see preaching directed at those who already believe. It is a lot easier to preach to a friendly audience that is going to react the way you expect them to.

Arthur Sido said...

Tim,

Excellent point. The prophetic word is lost, not new revelation but calling on men to repent. Imagine the reaction preachers would get if they called on the believers in the pews to repent of worldliness and covetousness. I imagine they would be looking for new employment in a hurry.