PREACHERS IN HIDING
Saved at the age of 21, and with no religious background, it puzzled me to hear people pray publicly for those who preached: “Lord, please hide him behind the cross.” It puzzled me when I heard the pastor and visiting preachers pray publicly for themselves that they would be “hidden behind the cross.” I've since come to understand what this was all about, and to know how profoundly important it is that preachers be hidden behind the cross.
America has been and is blessed with some of best ministers of the Gospel that have ever lived. Though differing in terms of backgrounds, fields of labor, personalities and accomplishments, etc. they’ve all shared and share a sense of divine calling to their work, an obvious God-given ability for it, humility, fear of God, love for souls, and a sense of accountability that keeps them at their work.
On the other hand, America has probably never had, until now, more men “in the ministry” who are the complete opposite of what has been described above. William Barclay in his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1 says this: “There is a kind of teacher and preacher who uses his message as a setting for himself. The false prophet is interested in self display; the true prophet desires self-obliteration.”
What Barclay describes is now rampant. More unfortunately, these types of preachers are now applauded and sought after by much if not most of what is termed "evangelical" Christianity. Too many, in and under pulpit ministry, appear to give much thought to the rightness of preachers being hidden behind the cross and the wrongness of their having a high-profile role that centers attention on themselves.
We desperately need a return to spiritual sanity where the gospel ministry is concerned. This begins with the desire that preachers be, as much as possible, hidden behind the cross (John 3:30; 12:20, 21; Matt. 17:18; 1 Cor. 3:6, 7; 2 Cor. 3:5, 6; 4:7; Gal. 6:14). Over 100 years ago, Dr. T. Harwood Pattison offered the following counsel to ministers:
“Abstain from allusions to yourself. Assume no ministerial airs or pulpit tone. Above all, aim to be hidden behind your theme in the spirit of one whose highest honor is to preach not himself but Christ Jesus his Lord. No pulpit is small enough for the preacher who brings into it himself aloe, and none I slarge enough for the preacher who brings into it not himself but his Master.”
Dr. Pattison's was right. His counsel never needed to be heeded more than it does today.