In a number of places recently, I have been reading authors talk about the importance of humility in the pulpit. I have read Howard Hendricks (in the book Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive) talk about it; I have heard Steve Lawson talk about it (in a sermon from a past Shepherds Conference; I have read Alexander Strauch (in his book Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Church Leadership) talk about it.
Unfortunately, there is sometimes a “holier than thou” or “don’t touch God’s anointed” when it comes to the preacher and his congregation. There is this assumption that the preacher has figured out everything he is preaching and follows God’s Word completely and perfectly. Thus when he says, “Thus saith the Lord,” he is also saying, “I’m doing this. Why not you?”
Now granted, there is a sense of accountability that the preacher has when he speaks and he ought to encourage his people to follow Him as he follows Christ (I Cor 11:1). But, the preacher “has not arrived.” He, like Paul, should see himself as the chief sinner (I Tim 1:15).
In the opening chapter of his book Teaching to Change Lives, Hendricks talks about “the law of the teacher”:
“If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow. Neither personality nor methodology can substitute for this principle. You cannot communicate out of a vacuum. You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you don’t know it – truly know it – you can’t give it.
“This law embraces the philosophy that I, as a teacher, am primarily a learner, a student among students. I am perpetuating the learning process; I am still en route. And by becoming a student again, I as a teacher will look at the education process through a radically new – and uniquely person – set of eyes.
“I must keep growing and changing. The word of God, of course, does not change, but my understanding of it does change, because I am a developing individual. This is why Peter could tell us at the end of his second epistle, ‘Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’
“Such a philosophy required a certain attitude – the attitude that you have not yet ‘arrived.’ A person who applies this principle of teaching is always asking, ‘How can I improve?’”
Or to put it like Paul – “12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14).