Esther S. S. Robinson
A call for clear communication
Have you ever tapped your forehead with the question, "What is this person trying to convey?" Perhaps you would abstain from such an act when you are visible before an audience. However, if given an opportunity wherein your reactions are not gauged, certainly this would be your immediate impulse.
I read about an incident which took place in the life of John Wesley. In the initial days of the Methodist church, for want of speakers, even those who were illiterate were given the opportunity to preach. One such preacher, during a watch night service, mistook 'austere' for 'oyster' and preached the Word of God. When an erudite man from among the audience came with a complaint, John Wesley had to smile with these words, "So you have had a heavy dose of oysters this night?"
This is mentioned not with an intention to belittle the preacher, but to emphasise the necessity for preachers to be more careful before taking up the assignment. We are not discussing the slip of anyone's tongue, but sheer slothfulness or over-confidence while standing before a crowd.
Some people, if given an opportunity to stand before a pulpit with a mike in their hand, make fools of themselves as well as the audience without being aware of it. By inviting such people we are asking for trouble. I heard a speaker make this statement, "I was influenced by the Holy Spirit." I recoiled within. "What is he prating? Now who is trying to influence whom? Does God need at all to influence someone?" If a preacher is offered just fifteen minutes during devotion time to deliver God's word, it should be packed with God's power that could charge people for the whole day.
I agree that all are not born preachers. There are many who come in front of an audience with nothing beneficial to offer, either to them or the congregation at large. Time is precious and souls come to church or any other gathering with the intention of receiving some spiritual food, because this world makes them hungry every moment offering them mostly morsels of filth.
There is another set of problematic preachers who stand on the pulpit with the note, "Today so and so was supposed to deliver God's word, but he could not turn up, and I am standing in his place. I believe God will speak to you through me." Hardly would these words have escaped the preacher's mouth, like balloons getting deflated, than some sort of restlessness sets in among the gathered, and thereafter, even if the preacher were to bring heaven down to earth, I guess nobody will listen. Yet the ridiculous thing is that the names of such preachers, time and again, appear in the church roster. How can we tackle this problem of problematic preachers?
Many argue that planning is not essential, referring to the disciples of Jesus Christ, who were illiterate fishermen. However, one should bear in mind that they had the privilege of being with the Lord for about three and a half years. Such preachers are rare, but they are the need of this hour.
The question is, what can be done when such powerful speakers are not available? The members of the church must put their heads together in selecting a team of powerful preachers whom God has specially chosen from among them, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They must communicate the appreciation of the committee to such preachers and find out their willingness to accept such assignments, with emphasis laid on their being committed to this mission.
A preacher must be a 'stepped up' person, an expert in the theme, but simultaneously should also be capable of stooping down, that is 'stepping down,' to reach the layman. Preachers should be selected bearing this in mind. Only character and competence coupled together can draw the best out of a preacher. This step would, to some extent, deal with this problem.
There may be some good personalities aspiring to become preachers, but unfortunately their talents are not tapped, or they have been kept in the dark. The church committee should make a thorough search for such hidden treasures, and give them the training to make the best soul winners. Setting up a critique circle that could evaluate a preacher would also prove beneficial. This must be done such that only constructive criticism is conveyed, thereby leading to improvement.
Prior to the preaching assignment, the preacher must be cautioned about his commitment and the importance of time and his preaching. Clear communication of what is expected of the preacher should be given in advance to avoid all unnecessary loose talks.
When everything is said and done about preachers, someone finds in the church an ordinary man whose exemplary life would be a powerful testimony that, without preaching, many get a sermon through his life. This preacher impacts the life of another to a greater intensity than the most powerful preachers put together. It is such people who leave an indelible mark in the life of others.