POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Life and Doctrine

The apostle exhorted a young pastor long ago to watch his life and his doctrine, to persevere in them, and by doing so he would save himself and his hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

A pastor should care to both preach well and grow well in his character. This was said early and often in the Christian tradition. For example, the north African theologian Augustine of hippo once wrote:  

More important than any amount of grandeur of style to those who seek to be listen to with obedience is the life of the speaker… A preacher should seek to live in such a way that he not only gains a reward for himself, but also gives an example to others, so that his way of life become's, in a sense, and abundant source of eloquence.  

Augustine, On Christian Teaching

In similar fashion, the golden mouth preacher Chrysostom challenged others to live a life of holy integrity before God and his hearers:

The praise of the speaker does not consist in applause, but in the zeal of the hearers for godliness: not in noise may just at the time of hearing, but in lasting earnestness. As soon as applause has issued from the lips it is disbursed in the air and parishes;   but the moral improvement of the hearers brings and imperishable and immortal reward both to him who speaks and two of them who obey. The praise of your cheers makes the speaker illustrious here, but the piety of your soul afford the teachers much confidence before the judgment seat of Christ.  Wherefore if anyone loves the speaker, let him not desire the applause but the profit of the hearers. 

John Chysostom, To Those Who Had Not Attended the Assembly

Like many parents I have adopted the phrase "know who you are and know whose you are" with my children. I want them to know they are loved by God and by our family as they walk out into the world in their journey of life.  As a preacher, we are to know the same thing. We belong to God and we serve at his request and calling. 

Preaching should be as much about our character and way of life as it is the preaching event. We can never be someone that we are not and no on stage fakery or eloquence will fool the eyes of God.  

As preachers of the Gospel we should care to share the truth and to live the truth in our own hearts and lives. This means an honest life of repentance and faith. Repentance for our own sins and shortcomings which are legion. Faith to keep our eyes on the one who forgives and raises the dead to new life. If we fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and perfector of our faith, both the joy and the substance of our message will flow fourth out of a life lived for him.

Watch your life and your doctrine…Persevere in them both.