The ministry of the word is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word.
This is Jason Meyer’s thesis in his book Preaching: A Biblical Theology. Let’s probe it a bit and I think you will find it to be a helpful definition.
Stewarding – The preacher does not generate the message. It is a stewardship entrusted to us by God. It is His word, His revelation, His message, etc. Our task is to faithfully handle the Bible as we faithfully steward that trust. I like the image here. Many preacher’s treat the Bible as if it is merely a source book of ideas, or an interesting data dump that we can mine for sporadic treasures. Stewardship points to the sacred entrustment and to the value of the word of God. Let’s be good stewards of a very precious trust – in how we handle it, in how we first respond to it (since we are lead-responders), in how we prepare to communicate it to others.
Heralding – The preacher is a representative who speaks. Meyer points to the wartime imagery of a herald who conveys a message with the authority of the king whose message he brings. Inasmuch as he heralds accurately, he heralds authoritatively, but it is not his own authority. So our task is to fearlessly herald the message we’ve been entrusted with as stewards. Again, I like some of the limits implied here. We are not called to offer friendly suggestion or polite tips, we are called to herald God’s message boldly and courageously. Some will respond to that message positively, others antagonistically, but our task is not to please everyone, even while trying to win everyone. It does take courage to faithfully handle and fearlessly herald God’s word.
At the same time, I am slightly hesitant to restrict the imagery here to military proclamation for that implies something about the Person we represent: there is so much more to the Bible’s message than kingly authority and military conquest over sin, death and Satan.
I am only at the start of Meyer’s book, but I am thankful for the good work he has done so far. A Bible-wide theology of the ministry of the word . . . this is something we should all be doing all the time. I’ll look at the final element of the definition tomorrow.