In the biblical classic of Jonah in the belly of the great fish, we see an obscure Galilean prophet attempting to run from God. The prophet went to a port city named Joppa to purchase a ticket on the fleetest ship sailing for Tarshish was the farthest point to which sea fairing vessels could travel. Like Jacob, (in Genesis 28), Jonah thought that God was territorial, confined to Israel. Jonah soon found out that the God of Israel was indeed universal. He even controls the elements of nature. The great fish that swallowed the castaway prophet validated this truth. God is inescapable.
Many people have called Jonah hardheaded or stubborn. While this statement bears some truth, it fails to shed light on the complexities of Jonah’s situation. He was a preacher who did not want to go to unexplored territory to start a new church. He was confortable where he was and complacency caused him to run in fear from the command of God.
One of the major themes of the Holy Bible is preaching. There are 137 references to or about preaching in the scriptures, dating back to Nehemiah in 426 BC, Jesus the Christ in the Gospels and concluding with the Revelation of Saint John in 100 AD.
Preaching has long been controversial, a virtual hot bed for contention. Solomon, the third King of Israel, called himself Ecclesiastes; or the preacher, declaring; “Vanity of vanities, … all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8). The message of the preacher is not always popular or received with open arms. Because of his preaching, Jeremiah of Anathoth was cast into prison by Pashur. When Ezekiel (during Israel’s captivity in Babylon) preached, Pelatiah the son of Benaiah fell dead. Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans was murdered the same night that Daniel proclaimed that the handwriting was on the wall. Amos the shepherd preacher from Tekoa was threatened with death and kicked out of the royal sanctuary at Bethel for his uncompromising preaching. Ten of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ were martyred for preaching the gospel.
Yet with all the adversity that the art has faced, preaching is still essential for salvation. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth; “For after that in the wisdom of God the world of wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (Corinthians 1:21).
The preacher must be cognizant of the fact that everything is on the line when he stands behind the holy desk to preach Christ and Him crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected on the third day morning. The church cannot expect to draw lost men to Jesus without powerful, dynamic, soul stirring preaching. Edward T. Hiscox said, “The true object and design of preaching is to bring people to Christ and to help them grow in their Christian discipleship. Instruction may properly be said to be the first object of preaching. Most emphatically it is not to entertain an audience, not to crowd the house with hearers, nor to build up wealthy and fashionable congregations, nor to replenish the treasury, nor to teach literature, science, or art, but to save and nurture souls by an exhibition of Christ crucified. For this purpose our Lord designated ‘some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
While the pastor of a church has a multiplicity of responsibilities ranging from the executive to the custodial, there is nothing more important than in-depth, effective, well-planned, goal-oriented, Holy Ghost anointed preaching. Church members need constant motivation. They receive such when their fearless leader stands up to preach. My father has told me on several occasions, “Son, never be found guilty of not preaching.” So here is a word of encouragement to all proclaimers of the Gospel who at times get weary along the journey, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
Dr. George B. Jackson, Pastor, Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, Inc.