If you were to look at “preacher needed” lists you would find a number of different criteria that congregations consider necessary for a preacher to be a “good fit” to come work with them. You will find everything from age, salary, education, size of family, current location, and other factors that people use to determine who is adequate to preach God’s Word before them. That being said, let me ask a question: what makes a good preacher, and what attributes should we be looking for in a preacher?
Let us begin by showing what is not necessary to make a good preacher.
– A good preacher is not made by education. Some have argued that an individual cannot be a competent preacher without a preaching school or Christian college education. Yet when examining the New Testament, Paul was a highly educated Jewish scholar and Pharisee, Peter was a fisherman with little formal education. Obviously, it was not formal education that was the difference.
– A good preacher is not made by age. Some will only consider preachers in certain age groups, considering those younger to be too troublesome and those older to be too feeble. Yet Paul was approximately in his 40’s when he was converted and preached until his death some 25 years later; on the other hand, the apostles were in their late 20’s and early 30’s when the church began, and the examples of Timothy and others like him show the benefit of young preachers in the first century. Therefore, age is not the key.
– A good preacher is not made by experience. An examination of Scripture shows a number of men, from Demas to Barnabas, who with age and experience still made mistakes about which they should have known better. Yet there are those who believe that experience is the key to a preacher not making mistakes and being reliable.
– A good preacher is not made by his family background. Sometimes one is expected to be a good preacher because of the family in which he was raised; or, if he is not from a Christian home, his family history is counted against him. However, Paul and Barnabas are the epitome of those raised with the recognition of, and in the service of, God. By the same token you have Timothy who was half-Jew, half-Gentile and Titus who was fully Gentile. Obviously one’s family history was not the determining factor of a good preacher in first century times.
– A good preacher is not determined by oratory skills. Jesus could keep audiences mesmerized with his stories and communication, but Paul was one who described himself as “rude in speech” (2 Cor. 11:6), the term “rude” coming from the Greek word “idiotes” from which we get the English word “idiot,” meaning “unskilled.” Therefore, one’s oratory skills do not determine whether or not he is a good preacher.
Then what does make a man a good preacher?
– A good preacher loves God above all else. Jesus stated that the greatest commandment was to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is impossible for one to be a good preacher of the Gospel if he does not love God more than anything or anyone in this world; and, because of that love, he must be thereby willing to make any adjustment necessary to his own life to serve God completely.
– A good preacher handles God’s Word correctly. There are many physical and historical shortcomings a good preacher can overcome with a solid grasp and utilization of God’s Word. Paul said that such actions keep one from being ashamed and make the preacher approved before God (2 Tim. 2:15). The good preacher goes out of his way to put aside the foolishness of men and place God’s Word as the priority of truth.
– A good preacher is consistent with his proclamation of the Word. Preachers get in trouble when they try to state one thing to one group and then make exceptions or exemptions God has not authorized to another group. Paul told Timothy to be consistent “in season, out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2), when God’s Word is popular and when it is not. A good preacher will not try to skirt around God’s Word, nor will he apologize for the teachings of truth; but will consistently and without reservation proclaim the commands of God in their fullness.
– A good preacher loves the souls of all men. Paul was willing to adapt his approach to men of varied backgrounds so that he might bring them to Christ (1 Cor. 10:32-33). For some preachers, the temptation is there to have the “my way or the highway” approach to preaching the Gospel, and anything that doesn’t fit into their framework of how the Gospel should be presented is wrong and useless. However, the good preacher recognizes the necessity of flexibility in presenting the Gospel to people of varied backgrounds and ideologies with the desire to bring them to truth. He also is one who does not hold grudges against those who have wounded him over time, but desires more than anything else for those souls to be right with God. If repentance comes, the good preacher is the first to welcome a brother back and will never put himself in the place of God when it comes to judging the hearts of men.
Please understand, the things stated above in the first section are valuable and can be very important in helping men do the work of an evangelist well: but they are not absolutely necessary, nor are they the most important aspects of an effective preacher. The Bible shows with absolute clarity that the preacher that is considered by God to be a “good preacher” is one that puts him first, loves his Word, and loves the souls of men. If that is God’s opinion, what right have we to go beyond it?