G. Campbell Morgan in his book entitled “Preaching,” tells a story about an eminent preacher who approached the great English actor William Charles Macready with a perplexing question.
“I wish you would explain to me something,” the preacher asked.
“Well, what is it? I don’t know that I can explain anything to a preacher,” replied the actor.
“What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.”
“This is quite simple,” Macready relied. “I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.”
The actor’s answer speaks to the importance of preaching with passion, purpose and persuasiveness. Or as my friend Dee Bowman writes in Common Sense Preaching, “Preaching that does not storm the will is not good preaching.”
The apostle Paul provides for us a plan for our preaching ministry found in today’s Bible reading, characterized by three “I Am” statements. In fact, this is a text I’ve used in some form or fashion as my initial sermon in each place I’ve engaged in full time located work during the past 50 years. I call it “My Model For Ministry.”
“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:14-16).
#1 I Am a Debtor.
I am a debtor to the Gospel. Like Paul, I can say, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” Without God’s goodness and grace, I am nothing. Of all people, preachers ought to realize their imperfections, unworthiness, and weaknesses. We are mere men with “feet of clay.”
I am a debtor to others who’ve gone before me. I have preached “full time” for nine congregations. In each case I inherited a work made possible by many preachers and pastors who had preceded me. Men who had sowed the seed. Cultivated. Watered. And produced a harvest.
I am a debtor to so many who’ve encouraged me to preach the gospel. Beginning with my godly parents, Roy and Mattie Weliever. Older preachers like Aude McKee. Robert Jackson. Earl Robertson. Clinton Hamilton. Homer Hailey. John Clark. And James P. Miller. All of whom have gone on to their reward.
#2 I Am Ready
Other versions translate the word “ready” as “eager.” Paul was not a passive preacher. Or a dispassionate disciple. Or a reluctant minister. He was ready. Willing. And longing to share the Word with these brethren.
We need preachers today who are eager and excited to preach the gospel. To convert the lost to Christ. To restore the erring to faithfulness. And to edify the saints to deeper faith, stronger hope, and greater love.
#3 I Am Not Ashamed
In the eyes of the erudite Greeks and the proud Romans, the gospel was simplistic and unimpressive. It was demeaned being associated with a poor Jewish carpenter who had been crucified like a common criminal. Yet, Paul was unashamed to declare its message.
Today, preachers face a skeptical, unbelieving and even a hostile world to Christ and Christianity. We must not be ashamed.
I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it originated in the mind of God.
I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because of its powerful and persuasive nature.
I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because of its outcome and its out reach.
I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is God’s power to save the lost.
I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it will cleanse you from sin’s stain.
I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it provides a purpose for your life.
I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it offers hope beyond this life.
Those of us who preach would do well to make Paul’s model for ministry ours. And to proclaim our message with the passion expressed by Richard Baxter, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman