What happens when your preacher is not John Piper?
That is the question that Steve Burchett, a speaker and assistant to the president for Christian Communicators Worldwide, pondered about recently, wondering what churchgoers did when their Gospel-preaching pastor was not as good as “one of the great orators” of the day.
“Many who have had the privilege of hearing John Piper preach in person would testify that it felt like a monumental event,” the writer stated on The Gospel Coalition website. “His preaching powerfully combines truth and passion, leading to convicted and exhilarated listeners.”
Upon going back to their home church, however, those who listened to Piper speak would feel that the ability of their “regular preacher simply [did] not measure up to the phenomenal preaching they recently heard.”
“Unless you attend a church led by one of the celebrated preachers of our day, you most likely have faced a similar situation,” Burchett penned. “Either at a conference or on the internet, you have heard exceptional preaching, but each Sunday you’re back in your simple little home church that hardly anybody beyond your town knows about, with its ‘nobody’ of a pastor who will never preach to thousands.”
Suggesting five solutions to the apparent tension, the pastor of Christ Fellowship offered “regular” churchgoers a few words of advice.
His first suggestion: Rejoice that your preacher is a man who proclaims the Gospel.
In many churches today, it is becoming more and more difficult to find someone who preached the true Gospel message.
“I once endured a 40-minute sermon that consisted mainly of the preacher telling about his family vacation,” he shared. “Though that might be an extreme example of non-Gospel preaching, too many preachers fail to speak of the holy God, sinful humanity, and the redeeming work of Christ.”
If the preacher, however, spoke honestly about sin, boldly proclaimed “Jesus Christ and him crucified” and invited listeners to repent and believe, that would be a reason to rejoice.
Secondly, the Kansas City pastor hoped believers would recognize that though some men are more uniquely gifted by God to have an international ministry and appeal, that is not the norm.
“The typical local church should be satisfied to appoint as pastors men who are ‘above reproach’ in their lives, who believe the Gospel and are able to teach God’s Word, and who have an aspiration to serve as shepherds,” Burchett noted.
Most preachers, he affirmed, are not “strikingly smooth and polished” as a few famous pastors today, but that is not “a tragic shortcoming.” It is God’s design.
Mature worshippers additionally, are “easily edified.”
“When hearing lackluster preaching, immature worshippers will typically not listen to the message because they wish the messenger was more exciting. Conversely, mature worshippers eagerly receive the truth as it is proclaimed, even if it sounds like the preacher is reading a phone book.”
Fourth, listeners should seek to be more interactive and engaged with the preacher, making occasional eye contact with the speaker and listening “outwardly.”
Just a nod or two of the head could encourage the pastor and raise his confidence.
“In my experiences of both preaching and listening to sermons, I can confirm that yawning listeners with glazed-over eyes make mediocre preaching worse, while eager listeners inspire better preaching,” the Christ Fellowship leader shared.
Lastly, Burchett asked believers to verbally encourage the preacher in their church.
Every preacher who is not “extraordinarily gifted” is also sometimes discouraged when hearing great preaching from renowned pastors.
Challenging believers to speak to their pastors about what was particularly edifying or convicting from their sermon, the pastor affirmed from personal experience how helpful those conversations could be.
“We should praise the Lord for giving us outstanding, well-known preachers, but let us not forget Paul’s command to Timothy, who was entrenched in a local church with pastors whose names none of us knows: ‘The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching’ (1 Tim. 5:17).”