By Todd E. Brady
Vice president for University Ministries, Union University, Jackson
They say that it’s all too easy for one generation to speak ill of another generation. A tendency is to be disgruntled with the generation that preceded us or with the one that is following after us. However, followers of Jesus understand the essential nature of an intergenerational church, and they refuse to speak unkindly of others.
On a daily basis, I work with the younger generation. For nearly two decades, I have labored among college students at Union University. In addition to serving all our students, I find particular pleasure in working with those students who are called into vocational church ministry — those who are often called “preacher boys.”
Recently with several students in tow, I attended a preachers’ meeting and heard the one behind the pulpit speak disparagingly of up and coming, younger preachers. In addition to talking about “preacherettes” preaching “sermonettes,” he said that many young preachers today have “lace on their underwear.”
Although, I am not sure what he meant by such a pejorative statement, my experience with the younger generation of preachers is quite different and causes me to be optimistic rather than pessimistic.
I have found that the younger generation of preachers love God. They love people. They love the Word of God. They believe in its infallibility, its inerrancy, and even more, they are committed to its total sufficiency for all matters of life. They want their lives and the lives of those to whom they preach to be marked by a faithful adherence to the Word They know that the Word of God is like a fire and a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29). They understand that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17) and they realize that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”(Romans 10:3). They understand that unless someone preaches, people will not hear (Romans 10:14).
With all their heart, they know that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17).” They trust that “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrew 4:12) For these reasons, they have a desire to boldly proclaim God’s true and transforming Word.
These young preachers believe the words of John R.W. Stott who said “Some preachers love to speak about the mighty acts of God but present only their own interpretation of them. Others try to stick to God’s Word but are dull because they have lost the excitement of what God has done in Christ. The true preacher enthusiastically and faithfully conveys both.”
The young preachers I know realize that the power of preaching lies not in the style of their presentation but in the substance of their sermon. They see themselves as stewards, not showmen. They’d prefer to be faithful rather than funny. They understand that they speak because God has already spoken. They are driven by the Word of God and not the whims of mankind. Faithful preachers do not preach about the Word or concerning the Word or from the Word. Instead, like Paul told Timothy, they realize that their responsibility is to “preach the word” (II Timothy 4:2).
We need fewer preachers who preach about those who don’t do it like them and more preachers who simply preach the Word. How thankful I am to tell students at Union that there are churches in the Jackson community where the Word is faithfully preached. As Ezekiel saw, the dry bones will indeed live again. However, they will come to life not because of the preacher’s personality but because of the preacher’s message.
The apostle Paul once sat in prison with other preachers who didn’t do it like he did. He knew the questionable motives of other preachers, but he said “What then? Only that in every way, whether in presence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:15-18).
Preaching today may not look like it did yesterday, but if Christ is indeed being proclaimed, let us rejoice. And as we rejoice, let us preach the Word, trusting that God will take care of the rest. B&R