“Very quickly, as you listen to a preacher,” writes A. C. Craig of Glasgow University, “you begin to sense whether his words are the flowering of a life or just the frothing of a mind; whether he is a genuine traveller or only a clerk in the office of Thomas Cook & Son.”
Few fallacies are more attractive than that of supposing that “clergy” and “integrity” are synonymous. What sort of professional undertow had St. Paul been feeling when he wrote to his Corinthian friends, “… I hold this ministry by God’s mercy.… I do not go about it craftily …” (2 Cor. 4:1, 2, Moffatt).
Always, authentic pulpit proclamation is more than the preparation and delivery of a sermon: it is the preparation and delivery of a preacher. Some of us were but novices in the ministry when the fire in E. M. Bounds’ writings kindled a flame in our own souls. “The man,” cried Bounds, “the whole man, lies behind the sermon. Preaching is not the performance of an hour. It is the outflow of a life.”
What, now, do we mean by integrity in the preacher?
Obviously we do not mean either impeccability or infallibility. The capability to sin and err is as indestructible in the man of the cloth as it is in the man of commerce.
Nor do we mean immunity against all doubts. John the Baptist had his hour of doubt. Joseph Parker, who declares that until he was 68 he never had a doubt, lost his wife and, in the blinding agony of his bereavement, found himself overwhelmed by queries and qualms. “In that hour,” he later confessed, “I became almost an atheist.”
The integrity of the preacher is linked, first of all, with his openness to God. Paul Holmer, in “The Pulpit,” has recently pointed out that when you are reading Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin, you are in touch with minds ...1
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