“What do you expect from your preacher?”
“Well, I expect him to preach twice on Sunday, teach a Bible class on Wednesday, spend five hours each day in the office, five days a week.”
“What kind of sermons do you want him to preach?”
“His sermons need to be of the type that encourages us in this dark and depressing world in which we are currently living. I am afraid that if he preaches too much negativity, he will drive people away.”
“What if he were to preach like Jeremiah preached?”
“Oh no! To do that is sure to drive some of our members away, and certainly those who come visiting from the community. Both will wonder if there is any good in this world! Preaching like Jeremiah may have its place, but too much of it is counter-productive to the growth of the church.”
“So, you think the Lord was mistaken when He had Jeremiah do what he did?”
“Not mistaken, but perhaps there could have been a better way.”
What kind of preacher do you want? What kind of preacher does the Lord want? As a preacher there are many who interpret what he does to be a life of ease or, if not ease, not so much strain like ordinary people in life experience. The preacher does not work very much, some think; he works only an hour or two each day to put Bible class lessons together and prepare two sermons. Because he does not work that much, he has time to do many other things; perhaps he can coach youths in a sport, be a part of the local community in some outreach way, surely his hours in the evening are made able to us who might have to call on him to help us in times of trouble and anxiety; his family understands and, if they don’t, why are they so selfish?
How hard can all this be?
Maybe you don’t think this way. I hope that is the case. On the other hand, if you do, you can’t be more wrong. One of the best ways to get an appreciation for what a preacher does is to study the words and life of Jeremiah (and Paul). Jeremiah’s words (above) give a small indication of what a preacher must deal with. In Jeremiah 6, the Lord’s preacher (prophet) was called upon by the Lord to preach a message of warning to those who aligned themselves on the Lord’s side.
Though they aligned themselves on the Lord’s side, the Lord looked at their alignment and saw they were terribly out of alignment! Unfortunately for them, they deceived themselves into thinking all was well, so when Jeremiah preached the Lord’s warning of an invading army, they refused to accept the fact the Lord would send a heathen people against the city of David. The Lord’s patience ran out (Jer. 6:11).
The people of Jerusalem (and the surrounding area) had no time for the Lord’s preacher and message (6:10); the young and old were greedy for gain (6:13) and there is no wonder to this approach because the governmental leaders, the religious leaders, and people of affluence—it was all about what they could get; it mattered not at whose expense. The preachers and the priests of the religious community were especially called out by the Lord’s prophet. They proclaimed that all is well, when nothing was well at all. It was like they looked at the physical body, saw no wounds, then judged the body to be perfectly healthy. They looked at their community the same way. If there was physical sickness, they would yell, “Quarantine, Quarantine!” (Lev. 13-15), never thinking about the pitifully poor health tearing up their spiritual well-being. They were soon to find out the Lord’s remedy for the spiritually failed diagnosis.
But before they were to experience that, the Lord called them to come back to the old paths (6:16); they would find rest for their souls, their spiritual health would be much better because the Lord’s “balm of Gilead” would heal when applied to their heart (mind) and body, the Lord would protect them. They did not want to listen to the Lord’s watchman (6:17), so the Lord was going to apply a surgical procedure to the land and tend to matters how He wanted to; it was not going to go well for them (6:18-21).
This was the message of the Lord’s preacher to the City of David. Does that appear to be an easy message to carry? It doesn’t to me. The preacher is very much aware the message he preaches is going to affect the lives of so many; he knows the lives of the many affected, that their lives turn for the good; he also knows (as Jeremiah knew) that stubbornness and the slowness of response will turn out for them in such a way that it can only be interpreted as disastrous and heart-breaking.
If a preacher is any good at what he does, he spends an inordinate amount of time in preparation to know the Lord’s word, gain an understanding of it, make application to it, then help others do the same. Years ago, while on the golf course in Illinois, a young man told me as he was in a Methodist Seminary his preparation for his class that quarter was to read a number of books. I asked him about the Bible as a text book. I was disappointed in his response. This Methodist Seminary student could help a person understand many things, but not the Bible.
In Jeremiah 6:13, the Lord was especially hard on the preachers. They dealt falsely because they had no knowledge of His will. Those who did have knowledge, they took that knowledge and used it for their own purposes. Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment (James 3:1). RT