A response to ‘Pastor Mark’

Yesterday a number of online friends directed me to a blog post by Mark Driscoll entitled ’16 things I look for in a preacher’, wondering what my response to it might be. In some ways I am tempted to point to the  26 things I look for most. However, I have chosen just five here.

You will notice that Pastor Mark is in inverted commas above. I am uneasy with the ‘branding’ of Christian leaders in this way. I am Richard, I serve as a pastor and preacher and I do other things too. However, I am not defined by them. Furthermore, I am deeply uncomfortable with the kind of beauty contest for preachers described in Mark Driscoll’s post. Any selection of servants of God based (even in jest) on American Idol has to be open to question. Preachers need to be winsome – they must court the attention of their listeners and occasionally charm them into staying tuned. However, there is the world of difference  between that and a consumerist approach to preaching which says ‘sweep me off my feet or I shall take my affections elsewhere’.

So- here are the five things I am looking for in a preacher – even in the one I meet most days in the mirror.

Humble heart – a preacher without a humble heart is a liability both to her or himself and to the congregation. Any preacher who believes too much in their own brilliance may be in danger of eclipsing the one who is meant to shine.

Sore knees – more of the work of the sermon is done on the preacher’s knees than on their feet. On their knees they learn to love those who will listen, and on their knees God can perform a kind of alchemy where the base metal of the preacher is transformed into Kingdom gold.

Dirty hands – one of the reasons I am cautious about the most influential preachers being itinerant ones is that it can breed a kind of cavalier spirituality. In other words, preachers whose ministry is on the conference circuit or elsewhere are not obliged to live with the consequences of their preaching in the same way as a person in an established local ministry. I like to see a preacher with hands made dirty by the mess and wonder of congregational life.

Sparkling eyes – at the risk of sounding like either Garfunkel or Gilbert and Sullivan, I want to see a preacher with a sparkle in their eyes. I want to see that they are entranced, puzzled and amused by life on Planet Earth.

Supple mind – a supple mind can flit easily from poetry to politics, and biblical theology to cultural analysis. A supple mind, like a supple body, needs exercise – and we should expect preachers to do their homework.

Depiction of 'Mr Littledale' in his pulpit by local schoolchildren

There are so many other things I could say, and so many great descriptions of preaching by such minds as Bonhoeffer, Brueggemann and others. However, perhaps these five will serve to fuel the debate.