Why Preachers Preach

Occasionally people ask me why I decided to become a preacher. Honestly, my answer is somewhat difficult to explain because there is more than one factor which motivated my decision. Perhaps it would be helpful to examine what the Bible says about why preachers preach.

First, several wrong reasons for preaching need to be identified. I wish this point were unnecessary, but the existence of corrupt preachers is well-attested in our times as well as in Bible times. Most obviously, a preacher should not preach for the purpose of getting rich. Paul warned Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10). Of course, this applies to all people, but especially to those who might abuse their right to get their living from the gospel (2 Cor. 9:14).

Nor should a man preach because he desires the honor and preeminence that is (often improperly) given to spiritual leaders. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for this very thing, exposing their religion as being focused more on self-satisfaction than on pleasing God (Matt. 23:5-7).

Finally, a man should not preach simply because it is “something to do.” I have heard tell of men who decide to preach full-time because they tried everything else and failed. In this case, the work of an evangelist is not really accomplished, and the work is seen as more of a way to earn a paycheck than a way to serve the King of Kings. One is reminded of James’ admonition to take the work of teaching very seriously (including preaching): “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

Why, then, do preachers preach? Paul serves as an excellent example of preaching for the right reasons. It is important to remember, though, that Paul’s situation was a little different than ours today in that he was specifically commanded by the Lord to preach (Acts 22:14-22). Still, there is much to learn and apply today as to what motivates a man to dedicate his life to serving as a messenger of the good news.

First, preachers preach out of conviction of the truth. Immediately after Paul’s conversion and baptism, he “began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’” (Acts 9:20). People marveled at his sudden transformation from persecuting to proclaiming Jesus! But Paul had seen and heard Him on the road to Damascus; Paul now knew and was fully convicted of truth, so that even in the face of danger he kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews (Acts 9:22).

Later, Paul identified love and good will as that which motivates those who “speak the word of God without fear,” unlike those who do it out of envy and strife (Phil. 1:14-17). It is not only a concern for truth which causes men to preach, but an equally passionate love for people who need to hear that truth. “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ…For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face” (Colossians 1:28; 2:1). Paul endured much hardship for others, and rejoicing, so that others could have eternal life. “So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12).

Ultimately, the gospel itself is what moves men to preach. God’s design is that the message of His love, Jesus’ sacrifice, and man’s salvation touches our hearts, and thus powerfully propels us into the world. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Two more things need brief mention. Preachers do not preach because they are perfect or more spiritual than anyone else; if anyone was aware of his weakness it was Paul. He frequently referred to God’s grace as that which saved and appointed him as a minister of the word (Eph. 3:7-8; 1 Tim. 1:12-17). Let all of us who preach never forget that we too are sinners in need of God’s grace.

Finally, preaching is only one of the many ways one can serve the Lord. “Evangelists” are only one of the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 (see also Rom. 12:6-8). Sometimes we give undue attention on preachers (titles like “Reverend” and “Pastor”) when in reality there are many other roles which are just as honorable and necessary to the building up of the body of Christ.