The Preacher as a Man of God
By B.H. Clendennen
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the preacher. A dying church will downgrade the preacher and his preaching. Theatrics replace preaching, counselling replaces deliverance. Bible colleges put more emphasis on music and musicians than on preaching and preachers.
God’s remedy for such conditions has always been a preacher, a man of God. All it takes to be a preacher is a sermon, but to be a man of God requires an altar. A message is a man speaking publicly the Word which God spoke to him in private. The preacher’s most important function is to ascertain what the Lord would have him to say, then speak it distinctly, simply, and lovingly, whether men will hear or not.
“And Moses answered and said, but behold, they will not believe me nor hearken to my voice; for they will say, The Lord hath not spoken unto thee.” (Exodus 4:1). Human distrust is a difficulty with every preacher. Moses feared that his message for Israel’s deliverance might be too much for them. They had been buried so long in the darkness of despair; they had suffered so many disappointments, that the gospel of emancipation might seem like a mocking dream to them.
The preacher must understand that he has less to do with the unbelief of his hearers than with the instruction and authority of God. When the goal is results, and not the will of God, the man ceases to be a spokesman for God.
The preacher must prepare himself for having doubts cast upon his authority; and he must take care that his answer to such doubts is as complete as the authority itself. God alone can give the true answer to human doubt. Men of God must speak the Word of God no matter what the consequences.
The preacher’s destiny is determined by his attitude toward the Word of God. He must hear from God and speak what he hears.
Whenever we hear a preacher who speaks the right word we hear the Triune God. Out of his words there comes the declaration of all that is bright, pure, true and wise in the universe.
“And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If you do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (I Samuel 7:3)
Samuel has come into his own, Eli is now dead. Up to this time we have no express word from Samuel himself. From pregnant sentences uttered now and then we knew he was moving in the right direction. The Lord was with Samuel, and did not suffer his words to fall to the ground.
“All Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord...And the Lord revealed Himself unto Samuel in Shiloh...And the word of Samuel came unto all of Israel.” (3:20-4:1).
These assurances indicate that Samuel, in his comparative obscurity, has been moving steadily onward according to the purpose of God.
There is authority in his word, there is inspiration in his encouragement, and there is death in his frown. May God help us to see the profound effect of the life of one preacher. Look at the attitude that Samuel assumed in relation to the corruption of the faith. He distinctly charged the House of Israel with having gone astray from the living God.
Solemnly, with the voice of a righteous, indignant, yet pitiful heart, he said, “You have been guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours against the God of heaven; you have trampled underfoot your convictions, and your traditions, you have bowed yourselves before the altars of forbidden gods.”
Distinctly, without reservation, without anything that indicated timidity on his part, he laid this terrible indictment against the House of Israel. In doing so he assumed a sublime attitude. He stood before Israel as a representative of the God who had been insulted, dishonoured and abandoned.
He was the only voice lifted up in the name of the true God. It is in such cases that men show what they are made of. Is there a grander spectacle anywhere on the earth than to see a lonely man confronting the Nation or the Church, and saying, “You are wrong?”
Such preaching must proceed upon distinct moral convictions, and come out of sincere piety and a deep reverence for all that is holy, beautiful, and good. Two things are required of such men; personal righteousness, and moral fearlessness.
Samuel said, “You must put away Baalim…” (a plural word which stands for no god in particular, but for all the progeny of false gods.) “…you must put away Ashtaroth…” (a plural word which signifies no goddess in particular, but the whole company of feminine idols)
How did Samuel’s influence become so profound on this occasion? It came so profoundly because his influence was moral. Moral influence goes to the heart of things. He who deals with moral questions deals with the life of the world. Herein is the supreme advantage of the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ does not engage to settle questions that lie merely on the surface of society; the Gospel of Christ does not undertake to deal with our local politics and the things that are little, contracted, and perishing.
The gospel of Christ lays its hand upon the human heart and says, “This is the sphere of my mission. I will affect all things that are superficial and local and temporary: but I will affect them indirectly. By putting the life right, I shall put the extremities right; by making the heart as it ought to be, the whole surface of nature will become healthy and beautiful.”
This is the supreme advantage of the man of God. The true servant of God has little or nothing to do directly with the petty, trifling, fussy controversies of the day. The minister of Jesus Christ addresses man as man, and by moving the heart he moves the will; by enlightening the judgment, he elevates the life.
Never has there been a greater need for preachers who stand apart from the little fights, petty controversies, and angry contentions which seem to be a part and parcel of daily life, but who will instead speak great principles and breathe a heavenly influence.
Regard Samuel in this light, and you will see the sublime in his attitude. He stands alone while on the other side of him is the whole House of Israel. Viewed merely from the outside it would have been much easier for him to have said, “I know you have done wrong, but I am not going to be too harsh, after all we are just humans.”
No man’s will is merely personal when he speaks for God. Samuel had no right to personal judgment. As the voice of God he is only to speak what he is told. He has letters from the King of Kings. Samuel was the medium on which God’s heart broke into language, and through which the infinite purpose of God caused itself to be heard in all the indignation proper to its outrage.
Such is the influence of a moral teacher and revealer of Christian truth. May God impress us with the truth! The world rises or falls on what the preacher says and does. If the church you pastor is dead you either killed it or some pastor killed it before you got there. If you are there in the will of God you are responsible to bring life.
Works of stone will crumble, time will eat up the pyramids, but the work of the preacher will be glorious when the world shall be burned up. The preacher shall lead the way.
“And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.” (Joshua 12:13)
Mark the period: “As soon as the soles of the feet of the priests…shall rest in the waters of Jordan” We cannot have the priests – men of courage and faith – lagging behind, or their practice will contradict their preaching. The preacher must be at the front, wherever there is danger. He must be the first to step into the river.
The preacher should be a great believer; he should be all faith. Wherever there is peril, difficulty, hardship, the preacher should subscribe more than any other man in the whole church. It is blasphemy for the preacher to write his name second on the list of endurance or in the records of hardship and sacrifice.
There is not a more blasphemous situation than the priests sending the people first to test the promises of God. He is not a priest who is anywhere behind, he is a hireling and careth not for the sheep. When the shepherd walks into the water the sheep will follow.
By what right does any man in the pulpit stand up to say that he is waiting to see what the people will do? The preacher is not bound by what the people do, he is not the custodian of their consciences; He must obey God in the voice of conscience.
There is a contagion about example; there is a subtle influence about high courage. Without saying a word to the coward, you may shame him into action by the act of your own bravery.
So then, this is the order of divine movement; God calling the leading man; the leading man expressing the divine will to others. Are the priests going at the head, are the preachers answering their own prayers, responding to their own challenges, living the results of their own appeals?
There is a lagging behind that cannot be helped; God will have compassion on such. But how can He waste compassion upon any truly God-called man who for a moment wavers when he ought to be at the head of the great procession, with nothing in front of him but Jordan?
Fishers of Men
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 15:18) This was not a call to attend Sunday school or to religious devotion in the sense of mere worship. This was a call to toil, to service, to sacrifice. “I will make you fishers of men.” Thus called Christ Jesus men to His ministry and unless a man is called he had better not enter it.
No man is a true minister who has not been directly called by Christ. This limits the ministry, but it strengthens it indefinitely. “Many called, few chosen.” I believe this truth can surely be applied to the ministry. God calls and a man spends his life doing religious work, and deceives himself into thinking he has answered the call.
How to answer that call is explained in the statement, “Follow me.”
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Verse 23) There is only one example of ministry, the Lord Jesus. To follow Him is to emulate Him.
You do not deny that you have been called, but how to carry it out is the problem. You have nothing to do with that. Hear this voice and tell me if anything is lacking in it. “Follow me.” “Leave your ship, leave your father, leave your friends, and follow me.” You worry that you will not be equal to the occasion. You are not equal but the call does not end with “follow me.”
The same Jesus who spoke these words spoke other words that address themselves immediately to every misgiving of the modest heart. The other words are, “I will make you…” He who gives the call gives the power. Herein we can bind Christ to his own promise. We have come out in answer to the call of God, to do God’s work in God’s strength.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease from among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria, and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with diverse diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those who had palsy.”
What a world He came into, and He knew it before He came. If the world had been less damned He would not have had to come. In these verses you have a picture of the real state of humanity as Jesus Christ found it. What are terrors to me were attractions to Jesus.
This is the real condition of the world in every age, it is a world full of sickness, and disease, and torment, a world in which there are men who are possessed with demons.
This world is not going to be touched by dainty fingered preachers who faint at the sight of blood. The world is a sick world, a dying world, a mad world, and our dainty little programs of religion, our interpretive dancing, our sports programs will never touch it. The world wants blood; no other price will redeem it.
Oh, church of the living God, what are we doing but running away to pick flowers, when we should be labouring with coats off, with both hands earnestly at the deliverance and healing of souls. If we do not buy the world with blood we can never buy it.
There are those who object to the expression the Blood of Jesus Christ. We have now refined that very much into the love of Christ, the example of Christ, the sweet influence of Christ. If we are ever to impress this age we must do it by something more than dainty words and accurately regulated ecclesiastical mechanism.
When we go near the city we must weep over it, and when we go into the city we must die for it. We may write our programs, but angels will tear them up. Preacher God never asked that you draw Him a blue print, or plan His action, He simply asks that you follow Him.
How glorious is one little word in the 24th verse: “He healed them…”
“He healed them…” mark the ease of the expression. Set that expression beside, “He created them, He set them in their places, He healed them.” It is part of the same music; omnipotence never staggered on account of weakness, and never despaired on account of miscalculation.
“Follow me and I will make you…” is all He asks. The preacher will come to plain preaching when he is enabled to complete his faith by feeling that it is not necessary for him to live, but it is necessary for him to speak the Truth of God.