An authentic preacher or a collection of echoes?
July 19, 2013
From John Piper's deeply moving address on the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon who was himself the target of unremitting criticism...
The question for us is not, How do you live through unremitting criticism and distrust and accusation and abandonment; for us the question is also, How do you preach through it? How do you do heart work when the heart is under siege and ready to fall?Read or listen to the entire message HERE.
For just over a year now that has been perhaps the uppermost question of my life. And, if I am not mistaken, I believe it is now, or will be, uppermost for many of you as well. Just last Sunday night I spent a half-hour on the phone with the wife of a pastor who would love to be here. He is under so much criticism and accusation that she found it hard to go to church and marveled that he could preach last Sunday morning—and I know this is a pure and faithful servant whose church I would gladly attend for the sake of my soul.
Preaching great and glorious truth in an atmosphere that is not great and glorious is an immense difficulty. To be reminded week in and week out that many people regard your preaching of the glory of the grace of God as hypocrisy pushes a preacher not just into the hills of introspection, but sometimes to the precipice of self-extinction.
I don't mean suicide. I mean something more complex. I mean the deranging inability to know any longer who you are. What begins as a searching introspection for the sake of holiness, and humility gradually becomes, for various reasons, a carnival of mirrors in your soul: you look in one and you're short and fat; you look in another and you're tall and skinny; you look in another and you're upside down. And the horrible feeling begins to break over you that you don't know who you are any more. The center is not holding. And if the center doesn't hold—if there is no fixed and solid "I" able to relate to the fixed and solid "Thou," namely, God, then who will preach next Sunday?
When the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God, I am what I am," he was saying something utterly essential for the survival of preachers in adversity. If, by grace, the identity of the "I"—the "I" created by Christ and united to Christ, but still a human "I"—if that center doesn't hold, there will be no more authentic preaching, for there will be no more authentic preacher, but a collection of echoes.