In the last podcast, in episode 94, we talked about whether online teachers threaten the authority of the leaders in a local church. Pastor John, in this episode, speak to average pastors, those who are fully aware they cannot compete with you, or Tim Keller, or Matt Chandler, or any number of online preachers when it comes to preaching gift. What would you say to an ordinary preacher in a local church?
I would like to devote the rest of my life to encouraging the ordinary pastor. I taught a preaching class yesterday. I have been teaching preaching for years, and I would say, most of these guys are average preachers. There are a few remarkable ones among them, and I give myself to trying to encourage them as well.
“Being a flashy communicator or being a great orator doesn’t necessary lead to edification.”
Here is what I say. When they are done preaching, I think one of the most important things I can say to them is, “If you will do what you did there and just get better and better at that — opening to me a paragraph from the Bible, explaining to me what these phrases mean, applying them simply, earnestly, and passionately with a heartfelt and prayerful attitude towards my life — then I will grow under your ministry.”
I remember one time years ago I was called upon to give a teacher recommendation when I was teaching at Bethel for a young seminary student who came to Olivet Baptist Church to preach. He gave me a form and said, “Would you fill this out when I am done preaching because I have to do this for my preaching class?” He preached on Colossians 1. (Can you believe that? This is 35 years ago plus, and I remember the text he preached on — Colossians 1 and the prayer of Paul.)
He simply, in a fairly pedestrian way, worked his way through every phrase of that prayer, commented on what it meant, applied it to my life, and some illustrations of how he prayed it and how I might pray it. The next morning I am jogging and that whole sermon was present to my mind. It wasn’t present to my mind because he was a flashy communicator. It was present to my mind because he was a faithful expositor. He had showed me what the Bible meant.
I think people are hungry. They cry, “Show me what these words mean. Explain these sentences to me. How are they explosively wonderful and how do they relate to my life? How do they change things?”
“I think people are hungry. They cry, ‘Show me what these words mean. Explain these sentences to me.’”
I think the best encouragement that I can make is this: “Being a flashy communicator or being a great orator, doesn’t necessary lead to edification. It doesn’t necessarily lead to the conversion of sinners. It doesn't necessarily lead to the glory of Christ. In fact, it can get in the way of glorifying Christ. What builds up the church is a clear heartfelt, faithful explanation of what the word means and a sentence by sentence and an exultation over that word so you reveal how precious and valuable it is to you.
I think the gift of teaching is a man who is anointed with the Holy Spirit and has a love for the word of God and a measure of gifted explanation — as pedestrian as he may feel his communication style is or even his personality. He has the gift if he can take a people deep into the word of God.
That is what the church desperately needs. I think what is going to happen is that the internet is going to become like the telephone and television. It won’t have the pizzazz it once had, and people will begin to settle into real life again. They will desperately need friends. They will need people in their lives with flesh and bones, and they will need pastors who show up at the hospital, who show up at the grave side, and all the flash is just going to be less flashy someday.