Integrity in Preaching
Article 6 in a Series on Preaching
by David Cook
Interact Magazine 1991
Volume 2 Number 3
Having spent the first six years of pastoral ministry in an ethnically-mixed congregation, I am acutely aware of the problems encountered when communicating across cultures. In our case, the new settlers were Americans and you can imagine the mix-up in talking about pies, bathrooms, trunks, beauty parlous, etc.
However, there were many ‘safe’ words, ie words which meant the same to all of us; words which find their definition in our Lord Jesus Christ. One of those words was ‘integrity’.
Preaching has everything to do with integrity; there must be a powerful link between what we say and what we do. So often a man’s preaching ministry can be ruined because of his lack of personal integrity.
In days when it is acceptable for leaders to lie and act in other unprincipled ways, in days of ‘integrity vacuum’, it is absolutely vital that we preachers are people of transparent integrity.
The world is very quick ti pick up on our lack of integrity. It may be excusable in the case of worldly leaders but even the world recognises its unacceptability in the life of the preacher.
What is Integrity?
‘David shepherded them with integrity of heart, with skilful hand he led them’ (Psalm 78:72).
Three instances in David’s life show us the meaning of integrity.
1. 1 Samuel 16:19 – After his anointing as king by Samuel, David returned to his sheep. Integrity involves being faithful, humble and not self-assertive.
2. 1 Samuel 24:6 and 26:9 – David was loyal to his principles even at great cost to himself. He was never dictated to by circumstances.
3. 2 Samuel 11 and Psalm 51 – David did not fool himself about his own sinfulness. He did not seek to cover it up; it was not a slip or misjudgement (funny synonyms for sin). He came to see what a wretched man he was and therefore was able to be a more compassionate ruler (Hebrews 5:2).
Of course David is but a shadow of his greater Son, who leads with skilful nail-pierced hands. Jesus Christ our Lord was a man of humility, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; a man of absolute commitment to principle, ‘yet not my will, but Yours be done’; one who knows our weakness for He was ‘tempted as we are yet without sin’.
Yes, we need to be faithful expositors, clear communicators, interesting and apt in our presentation, but we need to be men like Jesus, preachers whose lives parallel their sermons.
Integrity – ‘To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me: in every thought and deed this is my aim and creed.’
Rev David Cook, a Presbyterian Minister, served in several churches before becoming Principal of Sydney Missionary and Bible College.
© David Cook (1 July 1990)