“What kind of preacher are you?” Some preachers would answer “a good one” while others would say “a big one.” Then there’s the story of the preacher who informed his wife that a lady said he was a “model” preacher, so she showed what a dictionary said about this word: a small imitation of the real thing.

When people ask a preacher this question, they may want to know what denomination he is in. They may be asking if he is an old-fashioned hell-fire and damnation preacher or a soft-spoken speaker that makes people feel good. They may want to know if he really believes the Bible is inspired by God or thinks there is good in all religions. Whatever they mean, it is obvious that people know there are different kinds of preachers.

How a preacher sees himself is another matter, and there is an image preachers sometimes have of their work that is becoming more common although it is not biblical.

Years ago doctors were mostly general practitioners. If you went to a doctor about a heart problem, he wouldn’t say, “I’m not a heart doctor. I’ll have to send you to a specialist.” If you had back problems, he wouldn’t refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. Back then the question “What kind of doctor are you?” was not a consideration.

Lawyers are not the same either. Aside from the difference between prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys, there are lawyers who specialize in family cases, contract law, corporate law, constitutional law and many other areas. A man may be a good lawyer, but you may not be able to hire him because your case is not in his field.

Preachers are different too. They have different personalities and interests. They vary in levels of knowledge about certain subjects. Some put extra time into studying the Old Testament. Some make a special effort to study the book of Revelation or the parables of Jesus. Some specialize in Hebrew or Greek. Others devote special attention to issues like evolution or abortion. In this way you could say they specialize in these areas, and there is a strength to this because we all need special information at times and we don’t have time to read up on every area of interest.

Preachers also have different skills. One preacher is good in the pulpit, but he is awkward in one-on-one situations. Another preacher is good in personal evangelism but he is lacking in his writing for the church bulletin. One is good with young people while another is good with older people. One preacher may do a good job at holding funerals and a poor job in conducting weddings. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Nobody is good at everything.

Preachers sometimes use these differences as an excuse. Some of the most popular preachers of our time never preach against abortion, same-sex marriage, the role of women in the church, or the evils of Islam. Their reasoning? “There are others who can deal with those issues better than I can. I specialize in relationships and helping people feel good about themselves.” There are gospel preachers who avoid topics like divorce and remarriage, drinking, and immodesty, and their defense is “I specialize in Christian evidence so it’s not my job to address those matters” or “ I’m a meeting preacher and I don’t have time to talk about these issues.” In other words, their field of specialty exempts them from talking about these matters. Let other preachers get their hands dirty dealing with these controversies. Preachers even use their talent levels to get out of work they don’t want to do. “I’m not good at counseling people with family problems.” “I’m not good at dealing with controversies in doctrine.” People are hurting and souls are at stake, but they refuse to help because it’s not their specialty.

It is wise to recognize and use the talents God gives us, but shame on preachers who use a special ability as an excuse to ride a holly or neglect duties that are uncomfortable. Paul preached the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and was ready for every good work (Titus 3:1). Go and do thou likewise.

Paul M. Wilmoth January 18, 1944  –  April 5, 2021