I love my mentors and they are many. What a blessing these men from dad and Jeff to Jerrie and Jim Bill. Many of us who preach have them. They stretch from a beloved professor, to a well known and respected communicator of truth, to a fellow minister who listened to us when we were young or hurt. So, in no way would any word of this short post shine a shadow on those men and women who have affected your walk with God or mine.
In 1984 I began my first full-time preaching job. We were like many congregations in that the song leaders liked to skip the third verses on most songs. But it seemed that every time one of the song leaders lead he always selected the song “Lift Him Up” prior to the sermon. And he always led the second verse on it, and seemed to bear down hard on the first line, “don’t exhaust the preacher…” As a young preacher, already lacking in confidence, I found it disconcerting. As an old preacher, I look back at it, and me, and laugh.
It’s challenging. Trying to get people to respect, revere, and encourage their preacher while at the same time wanting us who preach to maintain humility. As the son of one of those “famous” preachers who was highly revered I want to caution, especially those of us who preach, against deifying other preachers. I can’t tell you the number of times dad would say: “be humble.” And one of my current favorite preachers often says “I know of nothing uglier than a preacher who is arrogant.”
Without apology I want to share with you this caution and some of the why behind it. I have seen more than one young man with great intellect who was introduced time and again as “one of the best young minds in the brotherhood” or “the future of the church.” This is so dangerous. First because, we tend to believe the press clippings. Second, because if “I” am one of the sharpest, eventually I have to say something different, see an insight others miss, develop a text in a new way, to “prove” the press clippings. And that puts me in a slippery place. So, encourage, build up, let young guys who have worked hard, who have great ability or intellect know you love them, but don’t set them on a pedestal. They’ll fall off or be knocked over.
Further, we careful about making supermen out of our older preachers. Again, I’ve known more than one who in their public life they were magnificent but in their private life they were not living up to what they taught. Whether it is that they believed they were above others and deserved certain sinful exemptions, they were just evil men with talent masquerading as godly men, or they were just humans who were clay, this is dangerous to all around. See, if we over exalt a guy and his house of cards crumbles then the church is harmed and souls will be discouraged, maybe ours if we put our faith in him more than HIM.
The church is blessed with so many outstanding preachers. But She only has one Savior. The church only has one hero. Let’s never forget that.