With the metaphor of a servant, the late Dr. John Stott concludes a presentation of five metaphors to describe the role of a preacher. The particular verse from which Stott draws the metaphor is found in 1 Corinthians 3:5:
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
The Corinthians had succumbed to “the shameful cult of human personalities,” drawing out distinctions and comparisons between such leaders as Paul, Peter, and a skilled speaker from Alexandria named Apollos. They claimed loyalty to their favorite leader or preacher, and looked down on those who weren’t members of their particular fan club. Stott focuses on Paul’s response to such twisted, misguided thinking about the church. All genuine, called preachers of the gospel are, at the end of the day, servants who have simply done their jobs to the best of their ability. They are not artists seeking to “create” a masterpiece of a sermon week by week, or pulpit politicians who seek to sway the will of their listeners in a certain direction politically.
Stott writes that a servant must be provided the tools and means to accomplish his task by his employer, or Master. As a gardener needs to be given tools to work the ground, so a preacher must be given the proper tools to preach effectively—and the primary need is for the very power of God to be dispensed into the preacher so that it can be relied on by the preacher in the sermon. Stott lists four sources of the power need:
The first source of power is the Word of God. People are not saved by the words of people, but only by the Word of God. This means a godly preacher does not rely on arguments of reason or flourish that could play to any crowd, Christian or not, for sake of their impressiveness and apparent wisdom. Instead, the preacher finds the unadulterated, unadorned words of the Bible to be his one and only subject and source of material. All other information sources find their value only in the extent that they contribute to the proper interpretation of the Word from God.
Second, there is matchless power in the cross of Christ. While perplexing to the spiritually minded Jews of Paul’s day, and foolishness to the “logical” Greeks, Paul stubbornly refused to present any other source of truth or reason than that of the fact and results of the most heinous crime in human history—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the astounding opportunity of redemption that the cross afforded for all who simply believed in it for their salvation.
Third, the preacher finds power for preaching in the filling of the Holy Spirit—in the preacher himself and in his hearers. Whereas common public proclamation and discourse rests on the ability of the speaker to persuade—often through manipulative technique or the display of great speaking skill—the preacher relies on a spiritual transaction to occur in the soul of both himself as he preachers, and in his listeners, as they sit under the preaching of the Bible.
Finally, there is preaching power to be found in cultivating a life of holiness and humility. A preacher must speak from a life that, while not perfect or sinless by any means, is sincere in its preference and pursuit of a holy life before God and man. Also, the preacher gains power through humility. As the Word tells him that God “gives grace to the humble (1 Pet 5:5), he seeks that grace from God, week after week.
Whew! Those are the five metaphors of the preacher that Stott leave us with in The Preacher’s Portrait. Are there any that you feel he left out?