Why I’m not a Preacher, and why that’s a good thing
We don’t need more preachers. We need better ones.
by Bill MacKinnon
If you, gentle reader, have gotten past the title and are actually reading this article, you may be wondering why anyone would write an article on why they are not something, rather than why they are something. You may also be wondering why anyone would give a flip as to why someone isn’t a preacher, especially someone whom you’ve probably never heard of and aside from this article, probably never will. Is the author so full of himself that he actually believes that the world is dying to know? No, I assure you he is not. My goal in writing this article is not to expose you to the mind of Bill MacKinnon, fascinating as that may be. My goal is to present good reasons for someone not to be a preacher, and hopefully persuade others not to be preachers also. Now, if you are a Christian, you may be getting a little angry at this point. After all, shouldn’t we be encouraging young men (or women, depending on your denominational persuasion) to enter into the ministry? My answer is no, I don’t believe we should. We don’t need more preachers, we need better ones. More than that, we need a lot of preachers to step down from the pulpit and shut up. They aren’t doing any good and in many cases are causing harm. Now, before you get too heated up, let me tell you that I have thoroughly searched my eyes for planks on this issue and have removed all that I could find. Please read on, and reserve your judgment for after you finish the article.
When I say that the world needs better preachers, I don’t mean funnier, more interesting, or more articulate preachers. We don’t need church growth experts, program directors, or motivational speakers. We don’t need preachers whose fragile ego is stoked by the number of people that walk down the aisle, and will go to any length, employ any means to get people to do just that. We don’t need preachers with an overblown sense of their own authority. We don’t need preachers who tell us how to be a success, or how to prosper financially or how to have high self esteem. We don’t need hyper-legalists who are more concerned about jewelry and dancing than about grace and mercy. And most of all, we don’t need preachers who think it is their job to save us. We have these types of preachers in plenty. In fact, we are choking on them.
Perhaps I should differentiate between preachers, and people who can preach. For the purposes of this article, a preacher is someone who preaches full time, or as their vocation, usually a pastor or evangelist. Anyone who can read and speak can preach, but that doesn’t make them a preacher. In fact, I think it is the duty of every Christian to be able to preach when necessary. There’s a lot of false humility out there in the church by which Christians excuse their biblical illiteracy and their timidity in sharing the Gospel. God wasn’t impressed with Moses’ excuses and I’m nearly certain He isn’t impressed with ours. I’ve had a number of people tell me that they will never speak unless “God gives them a message.” I’ve got one word for that: Crap. If you have a bible, you have a message. But I’m digressing.
I’ve thought about being a preacher. Several times in fact. Many is the time I’ve sat in a pew through a particularly dull bit of preaching and said to myself; “I could do better than this.” And to be perfectly honest, often I could. I’m biblically literate, having taught adult Sunday school and other bible studies for years. I’m educated. I teach professionally, so I have a pretty good speaking voice and a good grasp of vocabulary and its usages. Crowds don’t intimidate me and I’m moderately witty (my children may disagree on this point). I have preached several times on a fill-in basis and expect to do so in the future. My sermons have been well received and I enjoy delivering them. I am a Christian and believe strongly in the Great Commission given by Christ in Matthew 28. So, with all this going for me, why am I not a preacher? Well, here are my reasons, both serious and frivolous, in no particular order.
1. There’s no money in it. Of course this isn’t entirely true, but let’s assume for a moment that I don’t want to be a charlatan or a heretic. With those caveats in place, I stand by my statement. If money matters to you in any significant way, then preaching full time is not for you.
2. There’s no glory in it. I’m humble enough to recognize that I’m not very humble and a person who is delivering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a congregation needs to be very humbled by the honor and responsibility of it.
3. It is often a thankless job. People will seldom come to you and thank you for rebuking them for sin. They will however, be quick to point out your shortcomings such as: length of sermon, failure to shake hands, messing up a bible verse or any of a host of other infractions.
4. You have to dress up a lot. I don’t like ties and consider any job that requires regularly wearing a tie to be a job I should avoid.
5. You are stereotyped. This may be true for a lot of jobs but it is certainly true for a preacher. Take the typical Southern Baptist preacher as an example. His Independent Baptist brethren consider him to be hopelessly liberal and corrupt. His Methodist brethren consider him to be legalistic and narrow. The non-Christian seems him as a woman-hating, clinic bombing zealot. He just can’t cut a break.
6. The last and most important reason that I am not a preacher is that I can live without it, and people that can live without preaching shouldn’t be preachers. If 1 Cor. 9:16 and Jeremiah 20:9 aren’t verses that apply to you, then find something else to do.
Have I convinced you not to be a preacher? If so, great. I consider that I have done you and the world a favor. Now you are free to find something you really want to do. Find what that is and go for it. Do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men.
Have I been unable to convince you? Don’t lose heart. There’s time yet. Find a few honest preachers and let them try to convince you. Still not convinced? Good. You may just be the kind of preacher the world needs, one that is unable or unwilling to do anything else. Do you feel unworthy? Good, you are. Do you feel humbled? Excellent, you should be. Do you feel unequal to the task? Terrific, you are just the person God is looking for. His strength is made perfect in weakness. Dive in, and don’t be intimidated by people like me looking sleepily up at you from my pew and thinking “I can do better than this.” Over the long haul, I can’t.
But, you may object, doesn’t God need preachers? No, He does not. Correct that thinking. God doesn’t need anything. It is the very idea that “God needs us” that causes so many problems in Christendom today. It inflates our pride and feeds our self importance. Look up all the instances and variations of the word “pride” in the Bible. Count how many times it is cast in a positive light. Trust me; you won’t even need one hand.
Does God want preachers? Well, that’s a different question. The answer of course, is yes. He also wants doctors, janitors, technicians, housewives, oceanographers and lawyers. Well, I’m not sure so sure about that last one but we’ll let it go for now. You see, the bible is very clear that God is not so concerned with what you do, as with who you are.
Someone may ask: “Aren’t you afraid you’ll talk someone out of preaching who is really being called by God to preach?” My answer is no, I’m not afraid of that at all. You see, in a tug of war between me and God, my money’s on God. The word is Sovereignty people, and more Christians need to learn it. I belong to that peculiar subset of Christians that believes that God really is in control of the universe and that He gets what He wants.
In conclusion I will say this to my fellow Christians: For your vocation; do what you want to do. Be what you want to be. Don’t worry about missing your ministry or ignoring your calling. Our God is a big God, and He’s very persuasive. If He wants you to do something, He’ll let you know.