Vast Trouble

Permit me to persist in quoting from James Stewart’s, Heralds of God, although only briefly this time (p190):

“Preaching,” inquires Bishop Quayle, “is the art of making a sermon and delivering it?” – and he answers his own question: “Why, no, that is not preaching.  Preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering that.  It is no trouble to preach, but a vast trouble to construct a preacher.”

I suspect this is a tension every homiletics instructor feels deeply.  It is possible to instruct the method of passage exegesis, sermon formation and effective delivery.  But what does it take to form a preacher?  Surely that is a lifetime work of God Himself.  A couple of comments to ponder:

Are you a preacher, or do you just preach? That is to say, does your life live up to the ministry you give from the pulpit?  Are you continuing to grow, to be shaped, to pursue maturity while resting in God’s work to shape you into the image of His Son?  Have you been so committed to studying preaching and ministry and hermeneutics and theology, but lost direction in your personal spirituality?

Are you pouring into the lives of other potential preachers, even long before they ever preach? Again I raise the issue of mentoring.  How can we claim to be involved in biblical ministry if we do not actively pursue opportunity to mentor others?  A preacher is not made in the course of a training course, although I affirm the value of good training as a good steward seeking to fan into flame the opportunity and gifting God has given.  A preacher is made in the course of a lifetime.  Let’s look with a long-term, strategic view . . . how can we invest ourselves into others?  It’s not ultimately about skill formation, but character formation, spiritual formation, life.

Let me encourage all of us to look for ways to help others develop in the necessary skills required for preaching.  But let’s also look with a greater goal, for ways to help shape the lives of those who can then minister (in whatever form) to others.  This is the vaster trouble, but surely the greater goal.

4 thoughts on “Vast Trouble

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve been trying to think of preaching as a shepherd rather than preaching as a lecturer. I hear a lot of sermons that try to pass on some kind of information to me, which is fine, but when that is all they do I think they are failing to truly preach. A preacher, in my mind, helps to shepherd hearts to Christ. And, in light of your point, the only way to grow in that is to be shepherded yourself by The Shepherd, Christ.

  2. Thanks, Peter, for this article. Feeling like God is doing some “deconstruction” in my heart just now, clearing the ground, getting rid of what is no good, as well as doing some “constructing”. Does that make any sense?

    Thanks also for the reminder to be “pouring into the lives of other potential preachers, even long before they ever preach”. This long-term vision and investment is so needed.

  3. Sorry to reply so soon after my last one, but I love this post. I think you are absolutely right. E. M. Bounds talks a lot about this principle in his book, “The Preacher and Prayer.” He said that the church doesn’t need better methods, they need better men (preachers), men of prayer. Our hearers know if we have been with the Lord or not.
    I liked your question…Are you a preacher or just preaching.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. I’ve had numerous thoughts lately about the calling of/making of preachers, pastors for the church. We (regular members) also have a responsibility to encourage the best among us (for example our children and young adults) to consider such a calling.

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