Knowing what I am not

Knowing What I Am Not
Warren E. Berkley

Frequent reading of 1, 2 Timothy and Titus should be a regular exercise for every preacher. The study will remind us, not only of our scriptural function, but will imply what we are not. Since it is typical and historical for people to enforce unrealistic expectations on preachers, perhaps this kind of approach will ring true.

I am not a theologian, but I can tell people what the Bible says and show them the text. This is my function, to “preach the word,” (2 Tim. 4:2). It may serve some secondary purpose but learning human theology and religion will not necessarily enable or enrich you in the work of gospel preaching. Read the Bible and preach it. Rely on the Word, and let your preaching simply be a time to read it to the people and talk to them about the urgency of obedience. Open the Bible and show people Who they are dealing with and press each one to consider what their state will be at the judgment.

I am not a financial planner, but I can teach people what the Bible says about money, stewardship and priorities. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows,” (1 Tim. 6:10). For a Christian, financial planning should begin with what the Bible says about earthly things and their associated ambitions. Preachers generally are not trained in financial planning, but they must communicate the values such planning should be grounded in.

I am not a prophet, but I can show people the prophecies of the Bible and their fulfillment. God “cannot lie,” and the promises He made “before time began” came to pass (Titus 1:2). Timothy’s mother and grandmother used those promises, prophecies and teachings to make Timothy “wise for salvation,” (2 Tim. 3:15).

I am not a marriage counselor, but I can guide people to the passages in the Bible that provide good counsel. As a gospel preacher, I must take people to the words of the Lord in Matt. 5:32 and 19:9 and urge all to “hold fast the pattern of sound words,” and “shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness,” (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:16). I can use the Word of God to call attention to God’s intentions for marriage and use His Word to give instruction in the love, commitment and attitudes that result in pleasant longevity. Training and experience in marriage counseling may help, but ultimately – the basis of all such work will be the truth of God’s Word.

I am not a professional negotiator, but I can tell people what the Bible says about God’s laws of conflict resolution. In all my teaching and preaching, I must give emphasis to the attitudes and behaviors that constitute the “mind of Christ,” (Phil. 2:1-11). I must practice and teach what Paul wrote: “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will,” (2 Tim. 2:23-26). I must be committed to speaking “evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men,” (Titus 3:2). Preachers may find it cumbersome and counter-productive to get right in the middle of some conflict. But you can sit the parties down and simply read Matt. 18:15-20, or other passages that apply; then pray for all involved. We must remind disputing parties of the Biblical laws of evidence (1 Tim. 5:19-21).

I am not a fund raiser, but I can tell people what the Bible says about giving. I can remind my hearers to “be ready for every good work,” (Titus 3:1). I can read and teach all the passages that pertain to giving and show the good result (Phil. 4:18). {In my opinion, the elders should be the ones who state the case to the church for the maintenance of the budget. Let preachers give expositions of New Testament teaching, but don’t force them to be fund raisers.}

I am not just a paid, angry fighter – to yell, fuss and fight all the time, but I am charged to “fight the good fight … charge some that they teach no other doctrine … withdraw myself from those who do not consent to sound doctrine … and reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition,” (see 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 Tim. 1:3; 1 Tim. 6:5; Titus 3:10).

A gospel preacher is not a professional visitor, paid administrator, social director, official representative of the church, pastor, worship coordinator, records manager or head over the elders. He is a Christian using his time to preach the Word. He must give attention to “reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,” (1 Tim. 4:13), and take heed to himself and to the doctrine. Paul said, “continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you,” (1 Tim. 4:16).

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