Christians today seem to be clamoring for more and more celebrity pastors and superstar authors who receive applause as they arrive at conferences with their entourage, but what the church really needs is more faithful shepherds who are willing to get dirty in the trenches of obscurity and everyday ministry to needy sheep. The following testimony comes from a seasoned Christian couple who lives in the western United States. They have seen their share of suffering and heard their share of criticism of expository preachers. Their refreshing words not only come to the defense of a faithful preacher whom they know personally, but they illustrate for us the lasting impact of a servant leader.
Those pastors who have been trained to believe and act upon the supremacy of God’s Word for the building up of the Body of Christ for the work of the ministry have often experienced complaints of being long on doctrinal teaching and short on application. Whereas none of us wish to be boring we trust the job of application to the Holy Spirit–essentially. Allow me to illustrate this with a powerful lesson my wife and I recently learned.
We have a dear brother pastor in a nearby state, who is a faithful verse-by-verse expositor of God’s Word, who has received more than his share of criticism about a shortage of application in his sermons. However, recently, we two senior citizens showed up at a home we had purchased in his town in anticipation of an eventual retirement. Since we arrived with a truck-load of enough furniture to make it livable on our occasional visits between now and then, our immediate dilemma was how to unload this furniture which younger men had loaded for us.
We had no sooner backed the truck up to the garage than up drove that brother pastor with dollies, a strong back, and a willing heart. He proclaimed loudly that he had moving experience from a job when he was a kid and that he was there to help. He knew my back was killing me, although it would not be known for two more weeks that the pain was from a malignant tumor in L-1 which was shattering that disc. He just started moving our things, insisting that I never bend or lift a thing. He moved a complete bedroom set and a dining room table and chairs, most of which needed assembly. He spent most of that Friday and much of his Saturday helping two cripples get settled in and he really appeared to love doing it. What would we have done without our dear Christ-like angel of mercy?
The criticisms he has suffered about a lack of application seemed so shallow at that moment. We realized what peripatetic [walking, or following about] discipleship was all about as the Lord practiced it. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We had to comment to him, “The people who have complained about you not applying God’s Word as you teach need to follow you as you follow Christ. They would soon see what true application of the Word is all about.”
There are busloads of preachers seeking to scratch where people itch, who poll for “felt needs” and are happy to pander to the outcry for entertaining preaching. They have learned the art of public speaking without capturing the depth of preaching with true application…and thus they rob their flock of learning of Jesus.
Well, my wife and I saw Christ at work that day; we saw the Word applied in real time by a man who leads like Jesus, the Servant. This kind of life application is not as easy as coming up with an emotional illustration, or a catchy poem, but it puts Christ and His love on display for the flock. So we rise in high praise of this dear brother, for in his walk, not just his talk, we see his, and our, all-glorious God. As he follows Christ he motivates us to follow Him more energetically and fully. Truth is, in my life, I have seen no better applier of God’s Word.
If even one pew-sitter would rethink what application really is, perhaps his dissatisfied grumbling might turn to thanksgiving to God for His love gifts to the Church (Eph. 4:11-12).
Perhaps it is time to re-read John 13, and meditate on the servant leadership of our Lord who washed the filthy feet of His disciples. If you have a faithful pastor who consistently feeds you the bread of God’s Word, binds up your wounded soul, and lives a quiet life of godliness then you are more blessed than you may realize.