Last night we had a guest speaker at church. He wasn’t new to our assembly — he had married one of our girls — but we had never heard him speak publicly before. For various reasons both my husband and I thought this man was going to be a bombastic, in-your-face type of preacher, but we were pleasantly surprised. He wasn’t that way at all. Of course, he was mainly just sharing his testimony and the mission God had called him to rather than preaching a message, but, still, we enjoyed what he had to say and the way he said it.
That reminded me of another time I had misjudged a preacher. Well, actually, I hadn’t misjudged in this case: this man was a bombastic, in-your-face, ranting and raving type of preacher. There was a Christian radio broadcast I used to listen to while cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, and this preacher’s program came on afterward. As soon as he came on I would turn the radio off in disgust. I did that for months, if not years. Then I got convicted that that was a bad attitude. This man did preach truth. I didn’t have to like his style or listen to him, necessarily, but I shouldn’t have that negative attitude toward him. His style wasn’t wrong just because it didn’t appeal to me: God had used him to reach many people — evidently some people like that style. (This doesn’t mean that the end justifies the means and as long as he’s getting “results” it’s all good. I don’t agree with that principle. But there was nothing unbiblical in his doctrine or even in his style.) The Bible teaches that, while preachers are to be held accountable for their doctrine and their lifestyles (whether or not their lives match up to what they preach), we’re supposed to respect them as men of God. So I began to leave his broadcast on while I was finishing up in the kitchen. And on one particular day God used something he said to help me in an area I had been struggling with for years.
One former pastor we had said, while speaking about the Old Testament prophets, that many of them were contemporary with each other (in my ignorance as a young Christian reading the Bible through for the first time, I had thought all the books were chronological), but God had sent the same message out through different men because they each had different personalities that would appeal to different people.
The pastor I had while in the last year of high school and in college and then the one my husband and I were under during the first fourteen years we were married definitely had the gift of teaching. They rarely raised their voices except occasionally for emphasis, they spoke to people and not at people, they taught logically and delibrately through a passage, they didn’t often move around much. That is still the type of preaching I long for and respond to best. I don’t like shouting, ranting, using a verse as a jumping-off point only to express one’s opinions, walking back and forth across the stage (and down the stage and up the aisles — that’s very distracting to me), shooting from the hip rather than logically proceeding through a passage. We’ve had speakers who have done all of those things, and I have to be careful lest my dislike (and criticalness) of those things distract me from the message. There have been times I’ve heard other people talk about how blessed they were by a message, and I think, “Where was I?” Other times I’ve been blessed by a more ordinary talking speaker (or writer) who had perhaps a more intellectual approach, and other people’s response seems to be, “Well, that was…nice.”
The bottom line is I am responsible for receiving the truth I hear despite how it is conveyed.