Levi Sisemore, Texas Normal Singing School
This morning I read an article in The Christian Chronicle about Pepperdine University’s initiative to encourage young preachers called “Next Gen: Preacher Search.” I’m very pleased that young men are being encouraged to pursue the delicate craft and noble vocation of preaching.
(Parents, ask yourselves where the next generation of preachers is coming from, if not from your/our own children! I’ve known many deeply religious families who support everything about the church and her mission, but they wouldn’t want their own children to become preachers or missionaries. The best time to set a life’s trajectory towards leadership in the church is when children are young. Train them up to be preachers, missionaries, elders, deacons – people dedicated to servant-hearted, Christlike leadership. Along the same lines, consider what role your daughters could play as they might marry a spiritually-minded man who wants to serve the church in those – and other – ways.)
One thing disturbed me, however, as I read the article and watched several of the clips of the young men’s sermons. One of the participants, a young English major from Illinois, remarked, “Preacher is not a biblical term…”
Respectfully, I must disagree: The New Testament calls men like John the Baptizer (Mt. 3:1), the Twelve Apostles (I Cor. 15:11), Paul (I Tim. 2:7), and Jesus himself (Mt. 4:17) “preachers.”
I know in our deconstructionist, grassroots world we are skeptical of all professionals and their credentials. We ask questions like, “Who died and made you king?,” “You think you’re so smart, huh?,” “You don’t need a degree to …” However, I’d like to point out that “preacher” (and its cognate “preaching”) is a very biblical term and it is a role that only people with certain credentials may take up.
In Greek it’s the terms kēryssō (preaching) and kēryx (preacher) that begin to paint a word picture for us. The kēryx is a spokesman for the king, a dignified servant in the royal court. When the kings of antiquity made speeches and proclamations, they did not have electronic amplification for their voices; what they had was a kēryx. The king would speak into the ear of the kēryx the servant would voice – loudly and accurately – his master’s words. With the king himself listening, the kēryx dared not bumble the message or speak something other than what he was given to repeat. Certain death awaited the kēryx who heard, “Taxes are going up!,” yet told the listening crowds, “Taxes are going down!” Yes, it made the audience happy, but it displeased and dishonored the king. The kēryx is a loudspeaker, a conduit for a message that originates with his lord (surely this is depicted in Isaiah 6:8f).
Yes, “preacher” is a rich and picturesque biblical concept. The greatest pressure on the preacher should be the people who listen to his message, demanding that he relate to them only what the king has said – no more and no less. That “credential” that I mentioned that preachers must have? It’s not a university diploma nor certificate of ordination – the credential is that they must know the word of God and the God of the word; that they must relay it to us without alteration and without bias.
All preachers – and would-be preachers – should take to heart the words of Paul to the young preacher Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Tim. 4:6).