Who is your favorite preacher? Several names may spring to mind (along with particular sermons that made an impact on your life)—preachers who may be well known because they speak at events far and wide. But here is another question: Which preacher has God most used in your life? It may take a lifetime to truly answer this question, but I would hazard a guess that it would turn out to be one or all of the men who have been your pastors over those years. Their names are known to you but probably not to many others.
When I was in seminary, I remember speaking with a well-known preacher and extolling the value of the kind of ministry he exercised. To my surprise, he stopped me in my tracks and quietly stated that, on the final day, the preachers “called to the front” would not be the ones we might imagine. Rather, it would be men who had quietly but consistently preached the Word—perhaps to the same congregation for their entire ministries—the “unknown soldiers” of the kingdom whose unseen labors were far more significant than they would ever know.
Interestingly, we meet men like these in the Bible, unnamed prophets who are identified only by their office and by the message they brought from God, often under difficult circumstances. One such prophet appears in Judges in the prelude to Gideon’s time as one of Israel’s God-given deliverers. In chapter 6 of this dark and difficult book, the Israelites had yet again been unfaithful to God and yet again were reaping the consequences at the hands of the Midianites. In their desperation, they “cried out for help to the LORD” (Judg. 6:6) and God’s answer—no doubt much to their surprise—was to send them a prophet. He was not a charismatic leader, just an ordinary preacher. He told them nothing new, only what they had known all along—that God alone was their covenant Lord and Savior and that they had again disobeyed Him and needed to acknowledge this. Yet, God used this nameless prophet to begin to awaken His people again and turn them back to Himself in faith and obedience.
When we think of the wider section of Judges in which we read of this man, it is Gideon’s name we remember. But Gideon’s call—recorded immediately after the nameless prophet’s brief appearance—flows directly out of the message the prophet brought from God. Gideon almost certainly had heard this man preach, and his response of faith and obedience was a direct response to it.
Ministries that leave their mark on people’s lives are often those of men whose names the wider church will never hear until the day on which “all things are revealed.” Their faithfulness to God’s Word and their devotion to God’s people are the means God is pleased to use to bring people to Christ and equip them for a life of faith and service.
Rev. Mark G. Johnston is pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Cardiff, Wales, and a trustee of the Banner of Truth Trust. He is author of several books, including Our Creed: For Every Culture and Every Generation.