The Preacher’s Portrait – A Servant

In his short book The Preacher’s Portrait: Some New Testament Word Studies, John Stott paints the portrait of the preacher as a servant by an extended discussion of and meditation on 1 Cor. 1:17 – 2:5 and what it means for preachers. There is much good material in the chapter (some of which I hope to record and reflect upon later), but this passage was particularly powerful for me:

There are plenty of popular preachers, but not many powerful ones, who preach in the power of the Spirit. Is it because the cost of such preaching is too great? It seems that the only preaching God honours, through which His wisdom and power are expressed, is the preaching of a man who is willing in himself to be both a weakling and a fool.  God not only chooses weak and foolish people to save, but weak and foolish preachers through whom to save them, or at least preachers who are content to be weak and seem foolish in the eyes of the world. We are not always willing to pay this price. We are constantly tempted to covet a reputation as men of learning or men of influence; to seek honour in academic circles and compromise our old-fashioned message in order to do so; and to cultivate personal charm or forcefulness so as to sway the people committed to our care.

In order resolutely to resist these temptations we shall need strong inducements. It is here that the preacher’s basic motives are revealed. If at heart our ambition is self-glorification, we shall continue to use our own power to preach our own wisdom. But if we are deeply concerned for the good of men and the glory of God, we shall not hesitate to sacrifice to these our reputation for wisdom and power.

This was the Apostle Paul’s position. He tells the Corinthians that he has deliberately eschewed worldly wisdom and the strength of his own oratory, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (v. 15).

Stott, 122 (bold mine). That is a fearful place to go for self-reliant folks like me, yet is the only available path to fulfill the calling I sense and for which I am receiving gradually greater confirmation.

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