Preachers aren-t perfect -- but you knew that!
August 5 2011 by D.E. Parkerson

Someone once said to me, “Being a preacher is like being a major league baseball umpire. You are expected to be perfect on the first day, and improve every day after that.” Perfection, of course, is impossible for either baseball umpires or preachers. All humans make mistakes. Certainly preachers do; I’ve never been a major league baseball umpire.

John Wesley once said to a struggling preacher, “Your temper is uneven; you lack love for your neighbors. You grow angry too easily; your tongue is too sharp — thus the people will not hear you.” What he was trying to say is that the impact of preaching is not ultimately determined by a minister’s mastery of homiletic technique or the clever use of illustrations.

The preaching that transforms lives is rooted as deeply in how preachers live as in what they say. Effective preaching has to be backed up by integrity, and integrity is demonstrated when unity exists between the truth preachers proclaim and the lives they live before the congregation they serve. It is another way of saying they must “practice what they preach.”

John 1:14 tells us that, in Jesus, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory.” Jesus did more than speak truth. He lived on earth as truth incarnate.

Consider Jesus’ sermon on servanthood in John 13. His words (13:13-17) are empowered by His life (13:1-5). What Jesus says and what Jesus is are one and the same! This is the model after which all preachers should pattern their lives and their preaching.

The Apostle Paul, also, understood that the call to preach is a call to both speak and live the truth. He lived carefully so as to put “no stumbling block in anyone’s path” (Rom. 14:13). More surprising — and certainly more challenging — was Paul’s habit of calling attention to his own conduct. Twice he pleads with the Christians in Corinth to imitate him. To the Christians in Philippi he says, “Join with others in following my example.” According to Hebrews 13:7, every preacher should be able to make this same plea.

But what does this mean? How “good” should a preacher have to be to be “good enough” to preach? What does a life of integrity look like? One thing is certain — it is not about perfection. Paul made that very clear when he said, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12, NIV).

Paul admits it — he wasn’t perfect. But he was striving. He was growing. He was making progress in his Christian life. From his example, we understand that the integrity that empowers effective preaching is not a standard to be met — although standards are involved. Rather, it is a process — a daily process of “pressing on” with Christ.

Choosing to actively engage in this process is a big part of what it means to live a life worthy of imitation. When we, as preachers, are careful to “press on” in our own spiritual lives, we serve as visual aids for younger believers trying to grasp what it means to follow Christ, we learn to respond to life’s circumstances in God’s way, and we help those to whom we preach do the same. When we fall short, we can show them what it means to seek forgiveness. When we are sinned against, we can model what it means to forgive. When we grieve, we can demonstrate how to grieve with hope.

One of the statements made in homiletics class in seminary in the mid-1950’s by M. Ray McKay, has stuck with me to this day, “Be sure to always preach because you have something from God to say, not because it is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.” I have also learned that it helps to remember that the capacity of the mind to absorb is limited to what the seat can endure.” In other words, if you haven’t struck oil by noon, you are either using a dull auger or you are boring in the wrong place — or possibly both.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parkerson is a native of Georgia, a graduate of Mercer University (B.A.), Southeastern Seminary (M. Div. and Th.M.), and Campbell University (D.D.). He has served as pastor of one church in Georgia and five churches in North Carolina. Following retirement as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sanford on Sept. 30, 1996, he has served 10 North Carolina churches as interim pastor. His column, The Paper Pulpit, has appeared weekly in a few newspapers and other publications since 1958. He and his wife, Jessie, live in Wilmington near their daughter and family.)
8/5/2011 5:34:00 AM by D.E. Parkerson | with 0 comments

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