Feed my giraffe?

The apostle Paul once gave an exhortation to his disciple Timothy about the job description of a pastor. Among other things, Paul said this: “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 4:6). In context, “putting these things before the brothers” means teaching God’s word to God’s people. And in this case, teaching that word involved a direct confrontation with false teaching.

This means that the main labor of a pastor is to understand and explain what the Bible means. But a faithful pastor can’t leave it there. If he does, it’s just a lecture. A good servant is going to connect the dots for the people. He’s going to tell them not only what the Bible means but also how it applies to their lives.

Some preachers think they are serving their people if they deliver eloquent theological discourses that are long on concept but short on connection to people in the pew. Everything they’re saying is learned and perhaps even true, but it’s going over the congregation’s head. Charles Haddon Spurgeon confronted this problem with a pointed, humorous quip:

Christ said, ‘Feed My sheep. . . . Feed My lambs.’ Some preachers, however, put the food so high that neither lambs nor sheep can reach it. They seem to have read the text, ‘Feed My giraffes.’1

Spurgeon is being light-hearted here, but he is making a serious point. A preacher has the responsibility to “put these things before the brothers” in a way that doctors and plumbers and lawyers and housewives and factory workers can all understand. A preacher’s job is not to complicate simplicity but to simplify complexity. Unfortunately, too many do the opposite. A good servant of Christ Jesus preaches the word in a way that connects to people.

I know that I need to do better here. Perhaps there are some other preachers out there who need this little nudge too.

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1 William Williams, Personal Reminiscences of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 2nd ed. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1895), 145.

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