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Earthen Vessels

Could two guys be any more different than Dan Davey and Tim Jordan? Yes and no.

Following the afternoon general session, conference attendees were invited to a more intimate setting for a Q & A session with pastors Jordan and Davey, moderated by Gerry Weber. Why these two? Certainly one reason is that they are not what most people would characterize as “GARB guys,” so conference attendees are presumably unfamiliar with them and their ministries.

Since I had heard of both men before, but had never heard their stories, the Q & A session was enlightening to me as well. Weber described the aim of the event as an effort to help us “see the fingerprint of God” on these men’s lives. I believe that print was unmistakable.

But the session also served as an excellent complement to the preaching of both men, and here is where their dissimilarity and similarity come into focus. Seconds into Tim Jordan’s message in the afternoon general session, I was thinking, “Could two men be any more different than Jordan and Davey?” The reason for my reaction is that Tim is blessed with comedic timing and a keen grasp of the absurdities of our human ways, and he had us laughing… a lot. Davey’s delivery is weighty and deadly serious (though not humorless).

Seeing them sitting together at the Q & A session emphasized their differences even more. They just look very different.

But the initial impression of stark contrasts is illusory. By the end of Jordan’s message–and certainly by the end of  the Q & A session–their profound similarity was impossible to miss. Both are sons of pastors who succeeded them in ministry at their father’s churches. Both lead seminaries in addition to pastoring their churches. But look deeper, and they appear even more alike.

Both are deadly serious about expository preaching and passionate that the Scriptures must be central in their ministries. Both see themselves as very, very ordinary men. Both are startlingly transparent about their flaws and the weaknesses of their ministries. Both identify themselves as “historic fundamentalists” and eschew what they call “cultural fundamentalism.” Both feel that the time for broader fellowship is way overdue.

Both are dangerous in the pulpit.

Dangerous because they know where the power is and how to get out of the way of it and just be tools. Dangerous because they have handed who they are to God and said, “Please use me to convey Your Word” and God has repeatedly answered that prayer and continues to do so. The result is that their preaching faithfully brings “what God said” to hearers, but does so with a personality-fusion that is unique to each of them.

They are keenly aware that they nothing but clay jars. But they are very different clay jars. I believe preaching is supposed to work that way. If the pulpit task is nothing more than conveying the text itself, we should simply read the text and sit down. But in Paul’s words, we carry the message in “earthen vessels.” I believe the message remains in those vessels all the way to the hearer’s ears–and this is how God meant preaching to be.

Even more so in the pastoral setting. Who we are is part of what we are saying even though “the Holy Text” (a favorite phrase of Davey’s) is the only thing that makes the saying worth anything. This is because preaching applies what the text says, and part of application is the personal experience of the preacher and how God  has shaped him. “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

So I love how different these guys are. And I love how much the same these guys are. And most of all, I love what God does with clay pots–of all shapes, sizes and looks.

One last similarity. Neither of these guys want us to admire them at all. Just honor their God. But can you avoid admiring somebody who so sincerely does not want to be admired? Just try. The honesty in that attitude evokes appreciation, with or without our consent. But it’s God’s grace that produces that humility. Let’s praise Him for all the beautiful things He does in and through His earthen vessels.