Just Jerry

Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
~ Jeremiah 14:14

And how to not be Just Jerry

Every preacher has heard excuses from people for not coming to church. Some are comical and some are just sad. I recently heard one where a person said they didn’t like coming to church on Sunday because Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest and it’s not very restful if they have to get up and come to church. You know the proper response to that excuse, right? The proper response is, “Purple polka-spotted brontosauricorns,” or some approximation thereof. As long as we are going to be arbitrary and just start making stuff up, my response makes as much sense as your excuse. Though we preachers have heard a lot, we occasionally hear a new one.

A couple of years ago I was reading an article where a writer attempted to answer an objection to attending preaching services. This excuse was a new one on me, so I was interested in it. In some ways, it is a more thoughtful objection than the typical dog-ate-my-homework type excuses we get most of the time. As I thought on it, I realized the objection does have some merit and thinking about it has something instructive for preachers. Let me paraphrase the objection.

Why should I go to church and listen to preaching. That’s just some guy named Jerry up there. He’s nothing special. He got beat up on the playground in elementary school. He couldn’t climb the rope in gym class. He barely passed algebra. He has worked at flipping burgers, selling mattresses, and now he’s doing this. Why should I listen to him?

The Point of Merit

As far as objections go, this one’s not all bad. The objection does raise a valid point. As long as a preacher is Just Jerry, there is no compelling reason to listen him. As long as a preacher is doing anything other than actually preaching the Bible, he is Just Jerry. If all a preacher does is tell stories, jokes, opinions, observations, random musings, give personal advice, helpful tips, or is ranting, airing grievances, grinding axes, riding hobby horses, etc., he is not preaching the Bible and he is Just Jerry. There is no more reason to listen to him than anyone else. If that’s the kind of preaching you’ve been invited to, you are better off not going to hear it.

The Point of Failure

The objection does have some problems and fails when the preacher is not Just Jerry. When a preacher preaches the word of God accurately and faithfully, he preaches with divine authority and all men everywhere should listen to him. Paul instructed Titus concerning the things of truth, the things of sound doctrine, that he was to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). Titus was to command, as indicated by the word for authority, the people in all things in the Word of God. Paul likewise told Timothy to “command and teach” the same things (1 Timothy 4:11). After speaking of the “inspiration” and efficacy of “all scripture,” Paul charged Timothy to “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).

Paul commanded these young preachers that they were to preach with authority by preaching the things Paul had written as well as all scripture. When we preach the Bible, we preach with authority. When we don’t preach the Bible, we don’t preach with authority. We are Just Jerry.

Preaching With Authority

How do we preach with divine authority such that the voice of God is heard in our preaching and all men are compelled to listen and will be called to account for what is preached? We might think the key is in boldness, so we must speak with boldness in order to preach with authority. Boldness would factor in our voice and presence as we preach. Boldness makes us think of fearlessness to say things that will be disliked and maybe even anger some. Preaching is to be with boldness (Ephesians 6:19-20), but that still doesn’t account for the authority of our words. I could be bold on a street corner to command people not to cross the street. Maybe some would listen, but I have no authority to give such a command and men are under no obligation to listen to it. They won’t be called before the magistrate to give an account of why they did not heed my command. Authority must go beyond the person of the preacher, or else the preacher is Just Jerry.

There are only two ways to preach with authority. First, to preach with authority we must receive a direct revelation from God and deliver that revelation as it was received. This would be like with the prophets of old who heard the voice of God and were tasked with telling the word received to the people. The prophet would often declare, “Thus saith the Lord.” God does not give us such direct revelation today because he gave us his final revelation in his Son and his apostles have written that down for us. So, we don’t preach with authority today by telling people what God spoke to us or revealed to us in a dream. We have only one way then to preach with authority.

The second way we preach with authority is by accurately explaining and applying the very words of God as they were given in his word, the Bible. As long as we are preaching the Bible, meaning we are explaining the contextual meaning of the word as given, we are preaching with authority. In Numbers 14:1-38, we read of Israel provoking God to anger by their refusal to hear his word through his servant Moses and their rebellion against him by their murmuring and desire to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. God promised and later brought his judgment on them because they would not hear his voice.

Centuries later, David referred to this incident in Numbers 14 when he wrote Psalm 95:1-11. He refers to it as an exhortation to Israel in his day and commanded them to hear the voice of God “today” (Psalm 95:7-8). Still many centuries later, the writer of Hebrews refers to the Psalm of David, which refers to Numbers 14, and exhorts those he was writing to to hear God’s voice “today” (Hebrews 3:7-19). To put it bluntly, both David and the writer of Hebrews used the words of Scripture to their contemporary audience and exhorted them to hear God’s voice. That is preaching with authority. That is preaching that must be heard and for which men will have to give account before God.

So, preach with authority. Preach the Bible. Don’t be Just Jerry with something to say.

About Jeff Short