I’ve been greatly blessed as I have recently begun reading through Joel Beeke’s book, Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People*. This is, as with all the other Beeke books I’ve read, an insightful, thorough, and Biblically faithful work that has both encouraged and challenged me as a Pastor. I grant that most people won’t be rushing out to purchase this book unless they are a preacher, but that is unfortunate. The book doesn’t just teach what good reformed, experiential preaching looks like; it also examines the heart of the experiential preacher.
On that note, I thought I’d share with you some highlights from the chapter on the Major Elements of Reformed Experiential Preaching, specifically those on “The Holiness of the Preacher.” As I read this I was humbled and convicted, reminded of the high calling of the ministry of the world, and renewed in seeking God’s grace to make me the preacher He has called me to be. Perhaps as you read this you can know how best to be praying for your preacher (and if that’s me, thank you!).
The Holiness of the Preacher
It is impossible to separate godly living from true experiential ministry. The holiness of a minister’s heart is not merely an ideal; it is absolutely necessary for his work to be effective. Holiness of life must be his consuming passion.
Here are three characteristics:
- They are God-Fearing Gospel Believers. Their lives pulsate with the power of the gospel. They are single-minded men who fear God rather than swivel-headed men who fear other people. Fearing God, they esteem his smiles and frowns to be of greater weight than the smiles and frowns of men.
- They Manifestly Love the People to Whom They Minister. There is no aloofness in the experiential preacher, no professional distance from the people. As Richard Baxter writes, “The whole of our ministry must be carried on in a tender love to our people… They should see that we care for no outward things, neither wealth nor liberty nor honor nor life in comparison with their salvation.”
- Their Lives Manifest the Fruits of a Growing Experience of God. When a preacher ceases to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, his preaching begins to stagnate. James Stalker (1848-1927) says, “The hearers may not know why their minister with all his gifts does not make a religious impression on them. But it is because he is not himself a spiritual power.”
Scripture says there should be no disparity between the character of a man who is called to proclaim God’s Word and the content of his message. Ministers are called to be experientially holy in their private relationships with God, in their roles as husbands and fathers at home, and in their callings as shepherds among their people, just as they appear to be holy in the pulpit.
Scripture says there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the character of a man’s life as a Christian and his usefulness as a minister (2 Tim 2:20-22). A minister’s work is usually blessed in proportion to the sanctification of his heart before God. Ministers therefore must seek grace to build the house of God with sanctified lives as well as by sound experiential preaching and doctrine. Their preaching must shape their lives, and their lives must adorn their preaching.
I pray that this may be said of me.