by Andrew Phillips
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a conversation I would never forget. During the summer before my senior year in high school, I was talking with a friend about my future. I grew up a preacher’s son, and I never felt any pressure to choose preaching as my life’s vocation. My parents’ desire was for me to be a Christian and serve God no matter what I did for a living. I have always been thankful to them for making that clear to me, and I intend to do the same for my children. That night, I confided to my friend that I wasn’t planning on preaching full time. He responded with a simple question.
When I asked myself that question, I realized how childish my reasoning had been. I felt that others I knew expected me to go into ministry, and I wanted to assert my independence by doing something different. That was my primary reason, and as you can tell, it was not a mature one. I began to think more seriously about my personality, my passion, and the way I could best serve God. As a result of that process, I now serve as a full-time preacher.
I don’t have to convince you that the church needs more young ministers in every area: preachers, youth ministers, missionaries, etc. This issue is focused on preaching, a field where the need for young ministers is especially pronounced. Why do we need young men to preach? While I am sure there are several valid answers to this question, here are two that come to mind:
God’s message changes the world through transformed lives.
Recently, Biola University published an interview with psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee that focused on how members of Generation Y (those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s) view the world. She stated, “I think the first thing I would say is that they are a generation that wants to change the world, and they feel empowered to do so.” Young people have a hunger to be involved in something larger than themselves. They devote their efforts to affecting real change. We often see this quality reflected in a passion for service projects and mission trips.
This burning desire to make a difference is good news, because there is no greater way to change the world than to spread the message of Christ. God has chosen to entrust human beings with the responsibility of sharing this message. Preaching changes the world because it changes hearts and lives. In Acts 17, it was said of Paul and Silas that they “turned the world upside down” through their preaching. Verse 5 tells us that the disturbance was incited by Jews who were jealous. The gospel changes hearts and lives, and they knew people were turning away from them to follow the Master Teacher. Two chapters later, a silversmith named Demetrius became livid with Paul, because Paul was preaching that “gods made with hands are no gods at all.” The gospel changes hearts and lives, and Demetrius knew that would hurt his idol-making business.
Romans 10 begins with a focus on the Word of God that brings salvation. Verse 14 asks the question: how can a person hear this life-changing message without someone preaching it to them? Over and over, when the gospel is preached in the New Testament, people are changed. When people become more like Christ, those around them are influenced. Their communities are altered. The world could be changed. When we meet talented young men who possess a desire to change the world, let’s make sure they see the power involved in preaching the life-changing gospel message.
God’s message nourishes the church through healthy teaching.
When we want to lose weight, we reconsider our daily diet. When we feel sick, we think about the food we have eaten recently. Just like our physical diet affects our physical condition, our spiritual diet determines our spiritual growth. When Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:20, he said “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.” In verse 27, he described what he proclaimed to them as “the whole counsel of God.” While the phrase “sound doctrine” might not be used as often these days, it simply means “healthy teaching.” In order for the church to thrive, it needs a balanced diet from God’s Word. Those who preach and teach have the awesome responsibility of following Paul’s example.
It isn’t easy. In 1 Timothy 4:2, Paul urged Timothy to preach the Word with great patience and instruction. It would take instruction to help God’s people grow. It would take effort for Timothy to stay true to God’s message and avoid the myths we read about in verse 4. It would take patience to endure the hardship we read about in verse 5. Yet that is God’s plan to help the church mature. He has entrusted His Word to us, so that all of us may grow as we preach and teach it.
There are many talented young men in our churches who have been equipped by God with the ability to preach and teach. To any of them reading this, I echo the sentiment my parents expressed to me; I hope that above all else, you are a faithful Christian. You can be an asset to the church without being a full-time minister, and you can reach the lost without preaching every Sunday. Yet preaching is vitally important. Obviously, no one can decide for you how you will serve God with your life, but I would encourage you to think and pray seriously about it. Why not consider the possibility of serving God through preaching? If you have not thought about it before, let me ask you to think about the question my friend asked that night almost 14 years ago – Why not? Your answer may be different than mine, but the question is definitely worth asking.
Andrew Phillips is the pulpit minister for the Graymere Church of Christ in Columbia, TN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.