by John Kitchen
Why are you a preacher?" We have all faced the question. The question arose several years after I graduated from high school. I crossed paths with one of my former teachers. He inquired as to the direction my life was taking. I'll not soon forget the look on his face when I told him God had called me to the ministry. The question arose again not long ago when I was asked to address a civic organization about how I came to believe God had called me into the ministry. The question has surfaced often between those two opportunities. It is asked by different people, in different ways, at different times. Yet their query is the same: Why would you spend your life preaching the Bible?
I've tried different ways of answering that question. I have come to realize that the best answer grows out of Paul's final words to Timothy: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:1-2a).
Why do I preach? I preach because God is listening! Paul's solemn charge to preach came "in the presence of God." When we gather for worship the average attendance is higher than the number of humans present, the angels are assembled with us as well (1 Cor. 11:10). As if it's not enough that we are in the presence of angels as we gather for worship, Paul focuses us on the most amazing Person present-God Himself!
One Sunday morning I began to beg God to not make me preach. I was moments away from standing in the pulpit. I was exhausted. I was tired in a way that a week's vacation could not help. The weight of standing to speak for God seemed more than I could bear. As I sat silently pleading with God during the last hymn, He sent tracing through my mind this revolutionary thought: "Then just preach to Me." The idea was so radical that it startled me. I breathed the simple prayer, "What do You mean?" The thought shot back, "I know you're tired. I know you'd rather not preach today. I'm asking you to make it a sacrifice on the altar to Me." As I stood to preach that day, preaching became an act of worship for me. I preach because God is my primary audience.
This, however, is not the only reason I preach. I preach because Christ is judging! The solemn charge came "in the presence...of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead."
I once stepped into the pulpit and saw a man I recognized by face. At the time his voice was heard five days a week over ninety percent of the Christian radio stations in America. Suddenly I felt a pressure about my sermon that I had not felt earlier. I have come to understand, however, that no man's evaluation is the final one. The true question is, Can I face God's penetrating, omniscient, holy gaze as He reviews this sermon?
Recently I preached for the 1,200 time. Many of you have preached more times than that. Some misguided person might view such a record as a truck-load of merit with which to stand before God. I see it more as an awful burden because I know that the Scriptures say "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment" (James 3:1).
I preach because Christ is coming! Paul said, "I solemnly charge you...by His appearing...preach the word." Christ's charge to His disciples was to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15). We are to be people who are "...looking for and hastening the coming day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12). We preach because Christ is coming and to hasten His coming.
One summer afternoon in 1789 when others thought an ominous thunderstorm was a portent of the end, Colonel Davenport, speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives, was steady. He declared, "The Day of Judgement is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought."
I preach because Christ is ruling! "I solemnly charge you...by His kingdom: preach the word." I preach to announce the rule of our King. Jesus "is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:15). I preach to extend the Kingdom.
A group of seminary students once observed a custodian reading the book of Revelation during a down time in his work. One smart young man posed the question, "Do you understand what you are reading?" The janitor shocked them with his concise insight, "Yes, it's clear. Jesus is going to win!"
Why do I preach? I preach because God is listening and because Jesus is judging, coming and ruling. Though these reasons may not satisfy the curiosity of the unbelieving or uninformed, I have found them to echo the cry of my heart. With the Apostle I need no other argument, I need no other plea to explain why I am a preacher.