“He’s a good preacher,” is an often repeated phrase by Christians describing the preacher of their local congregation, or their favorite evangelist.
But what defines a good preacher?
Is it oratorical skills? Is it the ability to hold our attention spellbound? As long as it doesn’t exceed 30 minutes? And in some circles only 20 minutes. Is it his pleasing personality? His social skills? His affable demeanor? His administrative organization? His novel ideas?
Currently, I’m reading Paul’s letters to the young preacher, Timothy. There’s much in these chapters to scripturally answer our question. In 1 Timothy 4:6 the apostle admonishes, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.”
Consider these thoughts from this chapter in answer to our question.
1. Preaching is a Ministry.
The word ministry is used both of attending to physical matters, like benevolent needs, and ministering the Word. When the Jerusalem church faced a crisis of neglecting the Hellenist widows, the apostle appointed 7 men to “appoint over this business.” The apostles delegated this ministry because their primary commitment was “to the ministry of the word.” (Ax 6:4).
Too often in local churches preachers become saddled with so many physical chores, developing programs, secretarial work, administrative tasks, and even shepherding, that the ministry of the Word takes a back seat.
Paul instructed Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
2. A Good Minister Preaches the Word
.Paul warns against the dangers of false doctrines, the problem of departing from the faith, and promulgation of “godless myths and old wives tales.” The answer to combating all of these errors is preaching the Word.
A good preacher feeds on the Word and is nourished by the Word. It is his sustenance. Source of strength. Light to guide. And compass to direct.
The good minister masterfully wields “the sword of the spirit,” against the schemes of Satan. It is his weapon. Not carnal tactics. Or secular solutions. Or political ploys.
3. A Good Minister Practices what he Preaches.
Paul employed the imagery of athletic exercise and its limited benefits, to urge Timothy to engage in spiritual exercise. This issues itself to godly living. Speaking the truth in love. Virtuous conduct. Loving care for others. Faith-based priorities. And moral purity.
The words of Edgar Guest remind us of the importance of the preacher’s example to the believer.
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
4. A Good Minister Progresses in the Word.
Paul further exhorted: “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Tim. 4:15).
Progress means growth. Spiritual growth. It is internal. And involves the heart. The whole person. It is growing mentally and emotionally. It is purpose-driven by godly motives. And it guided a pure conscience born of prayer, devotion, and Bible study.
Progress doesn’t end at a certain age. It is continual. Paul continued to “press on” while an aged minister in a Roman prison. I recall Homer Hailey, when in his 60’s, saying, “Boys, I’m still a student.” That spirit should continue until the day we die.
When the “good minister” embraces his primary ministry, preaches the Word, practices what he preaches, and continues to make progress, it “will be evident to everyone.”
Finally, the advice of D. L. Moody is appropriate for all of us who preach and desire to be a good minister: “Cling to the whole Bible, not a part of it. A man is not going to do much with a broken sword.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman