Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Wonder If Any Other Preachers Notice This

The scary prospect of having to live out the reality of the struggle presented in an upcoming text.

True Confession time: I've been struggling with jealousy and discontentment when I relate the relative size and notoriety of my ministry to that of others. Probably most if not all ministers have struggled with this.

But, it particularly comes home in Matthew 19, where Jesus is telling his disciples not to worry about his reward to others, but to do their work, without looking over their shoulders at the work or rewards of others.

The difficulty with this is one feels hypocritical for preaching on such a text.

But, in God's plan, perhaps this is how it must be --that we empathize with our hearers, that the text works us over first (never a comfortable thing) so that we, like those who gather, sit under the text along with our people.

Thoughts, from clergy or laity?


  1. Hi Ken -

    You are right. Most ministers are far more emotionally effected by the size and fame of their ministry than even they know. Only our wives see how cast down or puffed up we get over how our churches are faring.

    I suggest that we take John Owen's process for 'unmortified,' besetting, heart sins and apply it to this area of our lives. To define 'mortification' the way Richard Sibbes does-- mortification is not merely 'a hanging down of the head, but rather a working of the heart until your sin is more odious to you than any [consequences.]'

    Tim Keller

  2. Ken,
    Preachers tend to be very competitive as are likely most of their congregations. "King of the Mountain" reigns and is a killer in families and in the Family of God.

    Jesus reminds us that our work in His kingdom
    is perforce a cooperative enterprise. The "first" are last and the "last" first.

    Competition works best within the impersonal market place and even there it is most effective when it is framed as competition
    with one's own work yesterday.

    Just a comment from a Seminarian.


  3. While I feel woefully unqualified to comment on this subject, two things in my reading recently popped out and reminded me of your post. One was a column by Andree Seu in a recent World magazine (3/27 issue), and the other was in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (sorry).

    The World column talked about the impact of a preacher preaching on things he has experienced/fought with. I can't summarize it well, but here is the link:

    The second thing that stuck out to me was this passage from Mansfield Park..."We do not look in great cities for our best morality. It is not there, that respectable people of any denomination can do most good; and it certainly is not there, that the influence of the clergy can be most felt. A fine preacher is followed and admired; but it is not in fine preaching only that a good clergyman will be useful in his parish and his neighbourhood, where the parish and neighbourhood are of a size capable of knowing his private character, and observing his general conduct, which in London can rarely be the case. The clergy are lost there in the crowds of their parishioners. They are known to the largest part only as preachers. And with regard to their influencing public manners, Miss Crawford must not misunderstand me, or suppose I mean to call them the arbiters of good breeding, the regulators of refinement and courtesy, the masters of the ceremonies of life. The manners I speak of, might rather be called conduct, perhaps, the result of good principles; the effect, in short, of those doctrines which it is their duty to teach and recommend; and it will, I believe, be every where found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation."

    Again, I'm definitely unqualified to address this subject, but I just thought of your post when I read those things, so I figured I'd share...