God’s Glory Requires Skill
Today, Nicholas McDonald is our guest blogger. I first came across Nick’s writing a few years back. Through our occasional correspondence, I have come to appreciate Nick’s work – so much so, that I have become a Patreon. Tom
God’s Glory Requires Skill
“The power of the pulpit is not in the skill of the preacher.”
“If God is sovereign, evangelism doesn’t depend on my eloquence.”
“God uses broken pots!”
While it is indeed true, and gloriously true, that conversion is not ultimately of us, the fact is these sentiments – while comforting – are patently false when taken at face value.
A brief look at biblical precedent and church history will demonstrate this.
God chose skilled men to build his tabernacle (Exodus 36:8). He did not take men of ordinary skill and demonstrate his glory “in spite” of them. He chose men to whom he had granted the skill necessary to do the work. This makes sense: God’s glory is perfect, and skill entails producing something closer to perfection, which means God is glorified more with skill than non-skill.
When Jesus sent out the disciples, he did not promise that he would work and speak through them “in spite” of their words, but rather that he would give them the words to say (Matt 10:19).
Paul, though rejecting the worldly standards of wisdom, does not in any way reject the necessity of skill in converting others. In fact, Paul invokes Timothy to raise up men to teach who are (literally) “competent” to handle the scriptures (2 Timothy 2:2).
Church history shows the same.
Do we honestly believe St. Augustine’s genius had nothing to do with his worldwide impact?
Do we really believe Spurgeon’s conversions are a non-sequitur from his ingenious skill at the pulpit?
Are the number of conversions produced from C.S. Lewis’ work merely incidental to his incisive skill?
Is it a coincidence that the Great Awakening came through Jonathan Edwards – one of America’s greatest minds?
Looked at this way, I think these common sentiments look rather ridiculous. Yes, God is ultimately responsible for salvation. No, he does not normally use unskilled people to bring it about. And while it is true that God can use anyone, the truth is He normally uses men and women of great skill to produce great revival.
We ought not to pray that God would work in spite of our skill – this is presumption, like asking that when we jump off a cliff he might catch us. Rather, we ought to pray that he might work through us, and equip us to be skilled in the good work to which we are called.
And, I might add, we ought to get up off our knees afterward and put in the hours, read the books, and do the work necessary to make it so.