It’s that seven-year-old’s wish that the church has allowed me to fulfill. In the last 25 years or so, I have had the pleasure of preaching for congregations of the Lord’s people in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
Of course there have been some detours: times that I wasn’t sure of where my life would take me. There was that job I took in desperation, working in a furniture warehouse. There was the job in the tourism industry that allowed me to interact and entertain the public daily. And of course, there is the position I held for more than three decads – that of elementary school teacher. For what it’s worth, each grew me, changed me, and developed character. They, along with the rich influence of my family, have provided me with support and encouragement. I gained much from each of these positions, but these jobs allowed little time for that old, old desire to be a preacher.
As a part-time preacher, I studied the Old and New Testaments in a way that I have never taken the time for in the past. Because of the extra responsibility, I’ve developed a renewed purpose in study, and I’ve realized a small amount of the burden that comes with being a spokesman of the Gospel.
You see, to be a conscientious preacher of God’s Word, I believe one must understand the underlying principle outlined by every one of the Old Testament Prophets. Prophetic books cover over one-quarter of the Bible, yet no section of the Bible is more neglected – even by modern-day preachers. Every one of the prophets displays a stark warning direct from God Himself. Every one of the prophets, minor and major, reminds God’s people to remember their bondage, to remember their plight, to remember their oppressors, to remember being lost, and hungry, and cold.
More importantly, the prophets remind the people, over and over again, that they must remember the God Who delivered them from that bondage, to remember being rescued, to remember being fed, and clothed, and protected.
Those people, God’s people had to be reminded by the prophets of the journey to the Promised Land, just as today the Lord’s people (and others who may walk through the doors) must be reminded of the bondage of sin and the oppression of the world. Just as today, we must be reminded daily to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… Just as today, we have to be reminded of the sacrifice of Christ.
Just as Joel warns that the day of the Lord is one in which the wicked among God’s people will be punished, the righteous will be delivered, and the enemies of God’s people will be punished…today’s preacher must continue to deliver the harsh message of destruction.
Modern preachers must not lay aside the truth of Habakkuk: that it’s not the survival of the fittest but the suffering of the best. The fact remains that sin being self-destructive is a condition of life.
In the manner of Zephaniah’s message, preachers today must help others understand that not only will sin be punished, but through the chastening, blessing will come to obedient believers in the person of the Messiah.
Just as Hosea taught by example about the one-sided love and faithfulness represented the relationship between Israel and Jehovah…the modern preacher must show the unworthiness of the human race and immeasurable grace of God.
Just as Amos preached of the righteousness and justice of God, a preacher in the 21st Century must tell the story of trust and obedience in the sovereign God.
Just as Haggai penned, the contagious nature of the sin of procrastination, today’s preacher must never downplay the urgency and uninterrupted nature of obedient faith.
Just as delivering God’s message was a difficult and deadly task for the prophets and apostles, preaching truth today is difficult because many in the world and in the church do not want to know what God wants them to do, and when you tell them the truth they get angry at the messenger. There is a huge amount of time and effort involved in preparing and preaching, not to mention special speaking engagements, visiting the sick, shut-ins, those in the hospital, and prospects.
Don Deffenbaugh wrote, “It is no wonder that a preacher is criticized. His struggle to balance his time between his work, his family, and his own welfare often results in an emphasis not appreciated by some members. Preachers live in glass houses and must get used to that fact. They will not please everyone, even as our Lord did not please everyone.”
I suppose we should appreciate a preacher a little more. May the words of the prophet Isaiah ring loud and true. In Isaiah 9:2, a prophecy cited by Matthew in chapter 4 in reference to Jesus: Isaiah wrote, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” What more profound mission could the church have than to be a light on a hill!