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Plain Speaking

Carl Trueman’s posts on the Reformation21 blog are eagerly anticipated by some of us who post here at WYTM. His theology and emphases do not correspond exactly with where we stand, but often they do, and more generally Trueman writes the kind of punchy, thought-provoking pieces that we aspire to.

In a recent post about the role of elders (“Honour the Vanilla Men”) Trueman made this observation,

In 1 Timothy, Paul sketches out a blueprint of how the gospel is to be preserved after the passing of the apostles…he specifically does not tell Timothy to look for the big personalities, the beautiful young things, the heavyweight scholars or the hit-and-run itinerant preachers of the parachurch world. What he advocates is the appointment of rather bland, non-descript, respectable men as elders. These vanilla men, basically competent and with no skeletons in the cupboard, are to be entrusted with keeping the church on the straight and narrow.

If, like me, you are an elder, I wonder how you feel about the ideal of your role being described as “vanilla”? And if you are not an elder, I wonder how you feel about honouring such men?

It is often easier for us to be critical than honouring, and when it comes to appraising those elders who preach my guess would be that the readers of this blog have fairly highly developed critical faculties. Even though I preach more sermons than I sit and listen to I am aware how quickly my assessment of another preacher can be shaped by the winsomeness of his personality, the depth of his learning, or the fluency of his presentation. Not that winsomeness, learning or fluency are to be despised, but that living in a culture whose values are shaped by the likes of “The Voice” means we are predisposed to make judgements on faulty criteria and fail to honour vanilla where honour is due.
Trueman explains why we should honour the faithful vanilla man,

The teacher is the herald of good news. Like a messenger from a battlefield, he brings the goods news of the triumph of the king against the armies that seek to destroy the church. That makes him a target for those who would wish that such news never be proclaimed.
It should also make him an object of honour for those who hear and rejoice. It is hard to imagine that the villagers would not honour that man who brings word to them that the army which threatened their destruction has been destroyed. The herald did not win the victory but he would no doubt be carried shoulder high through the village that night.

So it should be for the one who proclaims God’s word each week. He should be honoured not for who he is or what he has done but for the glorious good news which he brings.

This means that even if the preacher at your church is bland, non-descript and respectable, you should not despise the vanilla of his delivery. Instead, as you sit down to listen to this Sunday’s sermon, let your predisposition be one of honouring what you are about to hear by honouring the one who is to deliver it because by so doing you are honouring The One whose message of triumph it is.

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