John Stott’s book The Preacher’s Portrait was very influential in the formation of my theology and identity as a preacher. I have recently re-visited the content of the book, and it’s been refreshing to re-read material that was foundational for me years ago as I prepared to grapple with the call to preach the Bible.
The book identifies five roles that the preacher plays. Stott develops these five roles from the New Testament words associated with preaching and preachers. The preacher is called to be:
- A Steward
- A Herald
- A Witness
- A Father
- A Servant
First of all, the preacher is a steward.
The role of steward deals with the preacher’s message and authority. Although the preacher plays a role somewhat like a prophet, he is not a prophet, in terms of someone who is delivering original revelation from God. The revelation from God that the preacher is delivering is the word of God. As a steward, you could say, the preacher is here to “ deliver the goods.” Those “ goods” are the content of Scripture.
“No original revelation is given to him, his task is to expound the revelation which has been given once for all.“(1)
The Christian preacher has one job: to say what’s been said.The Christian preacher has one job: to say what’s been said. Click To Tweet
He is a steward of the revelation that has come from God.
He is not an apostle—the office of Apostle (in terms of revelatory authority) is closed.
He should not be a false prophet or false Apostle.
As a steward of God’s word, the job of the preacher is not to speak his own words, but to deliver God’s word to His people.
“The steward is the trustee and dispenser of another person’s goods.” (2)
Realizing that the preacher is to play the role of a steward greatly influences:
- The source of the preacher’s motivation.
- The content of the preacher’s message.
- The blend of authority and humility within which the preacher operates.
As a steward, the preacher is called to:
- Preach the whole counsel of God’s word.
- Step out of the way and allow God’s word to change the message.
- Sit under God’s word along with those he is preaching to.
- Look to the word as the source for all preaching content.
Realizing that your role is simply one of stewardship is both a great relief and a great responsibility. Personally, it gives me relief in that I don’t have to wonder week after week what it is I’m supposed to be preaching. I simply need to go to God’s word and allow it to search me as I search it. It’s a great responsibility as well. As I approach the pulpit week after week, you could say this reality “ raises the stakes” for me. I realize that what God desires in the act of preaching is obedience from me through faithfulness to Him and His word.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”(3)
(3)1 Corinthians 2:1-5