A pastor told his congregation one Sunday that he would be taking a few days off to repair a broken fence in his backyard. A little boy heard the announcement and showed up the next day at the pastor’s home. As the preacher began working on the fence, the little boy just stood there silently and watched the man of God as he worked. This went on for several days until the man asked the boy if he would like to help. The boy responded, “No sir, I just want to see what a preacher does when he hits his hand with a hammer.”
If the truth be known…so does everyone else.
“No man can for any considerable time wear one face to himself and another to the multitude” said Nathanial Hawthorne, “without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.” People are persuaded by authenticity. When a man’s life fails to match his language you can be certain, he has lost all credibility to lead with influence. This is especially true for the preacher. How can we be entrusted with the most radical, life-changing message in the world and fail to embody the principles which accompany the very message we preach? The answer is we cannot! As Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” When the preacher preaches, he is not only preaching with his mouth, he is preaching with his entire person.
Yes, the congregation gets the whole preacher during the sermon, not just his words. His mind, his thoughts, his television-viewing, his internet sites, his jokes, his decisions, his taxes…the congregation gets everything. When a man of God mounts the pulpit, every single cell, every fabric of his moral DNA takes the stand with him. If the face he wears to the pulpit is different than the face he wears outside the pulpit, it won’t take long until the multitude, the preacher, or both, as Hawthorne contends, become bewildered.
As John Marley asserts, “No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character.” Neither can the preacher proclaim a message that fails to correspond with the manner of his own life. Character is essential in preaching; it is perhaps the most crucial element of our testimony. When it is said and done, the preacher who proclaims the truth of God’s Word must be the same person who repairs the fence. If he is not, he should stick with fence repair and leave the pulpit.